There was a time not all that long ago where trade secrets were on paper, stored securely in locked filing cabinets or safes. The only hope of taking them was to break into an office in an effort to secure hard copies.
Technology changed all that with smartphones and flash drives, making it easier for an ex-employee to leave with vital company property unnoticed.
Keeping Trade Secrets Secure
For many businesses, trade secrets represent their most valuable assets, if not the foundation that launched their enterprises. Leaving them unprotected could have catastrophic consequences, particularly if an ex-staff member “jumped ship” to a competitor.
Having standard practices in place when an employee leaves the company is paramount. The moment that a worker gives notice, the following procedures should include:
- Monitoring emails and computer access following the employee giving notice
- Installing anti-deletion programs that provide detailed reports of anything recently deleted
- Preserving the data prior to the departure by transferring all stored information to a separate hard drive
- Conducting thorough exit interviews that send potent reminders of the confidentiality agreements the departing employee signed and the consequences of any violations.
- Cutting off all access to company computers and accounts the moment that the staff member departs
Even more proactive steps can start the moment an employee is hired. Having them read and sign confidentiality pacts and permission to track equipment and access. If the new staff member is a remote employee, employers should mandate the use of company-provided computers and smartphones for all work-related matters.
A stolen trade secret creates not only uncertainty but also a complex legal battle that can deplete any business of their much-needed resources.