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New business owners must protect trade secret information

Depending on the nature of the new business you are starting, you may not think you have any trade secrets to protect.

However, the scope is very broad. You likely have company information that you would not want any of your competitors to have: thus, trade secrets. Here are five steps you can take to keep those secrets safe.

1. Identify them

Think about the business or technical information you have. This could pertain to a formula, method, process, technique, program, pattern or device. Do any of these have commercial value? Are any of your assets trade secrets? Start a list.

2. Educate employees

Anyone you hire should sign a nondisclosure agreement, the contents of which would prohibit the sharing of confidential company information while the new hire is employed and for a period thereafter that you defined; usually a number of years. From time to time, remind staff about the need for confidentiality.

3. Manage confidentiality properly

Mark documents or emails “Confidential.” Storing this kind of information is important, so keep trade secrets on paper in a locked filing cabinet. For trade secrets on computer, simply limit access to the electronic files.

4. Learn about protections

Like most other states, Arkansas has laws that address the protection of trade secrets and the prohibition of stealing or disclosing them. States typically use the Uniform Trade Secrets Act as their basis for principles. Even if your business has not used nondisclosure agreements, you can file a lawsuit to stop disclosure.

5. Prepare for civil action

Keep in mind that most trade secret violations are managed through civil actions. For example, the court can order a competitor who has stolen your customer list or your secret salad dressing recipe to cease and desist from using that information and to pay monetary damages. If the theft escalates to the level of corporate espionage, there may be more extensive monetary damages to pay as well as the possibility of incarceration for the person involved.



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