How to keep your business secrets safe

All companies have information that they need to protect - and in some cases, the information is actually so vital that they it is the lifeblood of the company. If this information is disclosed, the company's very future may be on the line. The following are some strategies to help ensure that your business secrets remain a secret.

Non-disclosure agreements

A non-disclosure agreement is a contract signed by employees, which states that they are not allowed to disclose your company secrets without permission. The agreement should outline what the penalties are if an employee breaks this contract. In order for the non-disclosure agreement to be valid, you cannot include knowledge that the employee has gained independently from your company, so anything learned by virtue of working in an industry does not constitute a business-specific secret.

Non-compete agreements

Non-compete agreements are contracts that say that employees cannot use skills they learned from your business to start a competing business, or to go work for a competing business, for a certain amount of time after leaving your company and within a particular geography. In order for these agreements to be enforceable, they must be reasonable in time, geography and scope. You cannot use these agreements to bar someone from making a living, so if the terms are too rigid, the court may not enforce it.

Protecting documents

Any documents that contain confidential information relating to your business should be protected by labeling them as confidential, limiting who can have access to them and creating a system so that confidential documents must be checked in and out by authorized employees. Also, any computers that contain company secrets should be protected by passwords.

Employee training

Employees may not be aware of how sensitive information is when they do their jobs. In order to inform them about trade secrets and how to handle them, set up employee training sessions to make them aware of what to do with the information they receive. Also, when employees leave the company, remind them of this training, and the fact that they signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Get legal help

If you need help protecting your business interests, contact an experienced business attorney to learn which steps you need to take. The law on how to handle these issues is complicated, so it is best that you get legal advice and assistance from a qualified professional.