How to Keep Trade Secrets Secret
For more than 100 years, Coca-Cola’s confidential formula has been safeguarded; it’s currently residing in a vault in Atlanta. For about 70 years, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “11 herbs and spices” secret recipe has likewise been protected. Colonel Sanders’ handwritten recipe, scrawled in pencil on paper now yellowed with age, remains locked in a computerized safe augmented with motion detectors and monitoring cameras.
So what do the secrets of these giant brands have to do with your company? Like Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken, your company has trade secrets that require protection. Also known as intellectual property, a trade secret is confidential business information that potentially gives your company an advantage in the marketplace. It’s what you have that others don’t – and it’s what you don't want them to find out. For public relations service providers, trade secrets may include client and vendor lists, media lists and other compilations. For your clients, trade secrets may include manufacturing processes, sales and advertising methods and strategies, marketing plans and strategies, and so forth.
Because of their value to your company, trade secrets must be protected because once revealed, and the secret is no more, your company could lose its competitive advantage. As you keep your trade secrets secret, the legal protection afforded them is infinite (unlike the limited protection of, for example, patent law). But once disclosed, the secrets cannot be returned to the vault; their protection is lost.
It’s crucial that your company guard its trade secrets by developing a customized trade secret protection program. While you don’t necessarily have to have a computerized vault, a program might include instigating security measures (e.g., password protection), implementing documentation (e.g., employee confidentially agreements), and educating employees regarding proprietary information (e.g., intellectual property held by the company).
The first step in properly protecting your trade secrets is to contact attorneys with expertise in intellectual property. Paying for legal counsel now can save you a lot of money later if your company's trade secrets fall into the wrong hands.
This post was contributed by Laurie Hughes and Suzanne Kessler of Hughes-Kessler Consulting in Nashville. Their expertise includes intellectual property rights and trademark protection with an emphasis on entertainment and digital content venues. For more information, visit www.HughesKessler.com.
Posted on 06/22/2012 8:35 AM by susanh