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  • Writer's pictureWendi Gundersen

Don't wait to protect your trade secrets

Many entrepreneurs want to get their business off the ground—fast. And the less they have to talk to a lawyer, the better.

Many times engaging an intellectual-property attorney feels like a luxury—something you do once you've built up your brand and your company. After all, without sales growth, what does it matter?

The answer is that it could mean everything. By putting off getting good IP advice, you could be risking erasing all of the value that your effort created.

This is especially true for trade secrets. Trade secrets are information your company has that is valuable because it is secret. It could include pricing information, customer lists, source code, formulas, recipes, or processes.

It is protected by federal law and a patchwork of state laws. But all of those laws only protect that information if it remains secret or confidential.

There are many ways that you can lose the protection―each person you tell could be the basis for losing your trade-secret protection: employees, licensees, OEMs, co-owners, and subsidiaries.

The best way to protect you rights in your trade secrets is to (1) include trade-secret protection language in all agreements with anyone who has access to your trade secrets; and (2) implement trade-secret protocols and training to make sure your company has and uses procedures that a court will recognize maintain your right to your trade secrets.

A good intellectual-property attorney can help you review and draft third-party and employment agreements to make sure there are adequate trade-secret protections. He or she should also be able to help create and implement an internal trade-secret protocol to maintain the confidentiality of your trade secrets.

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