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Trade secrets 101: What they are and how to protect them

Trade secrets are vital to the success of any business. They foster innovation and provide a competitive edge.

So what exactly are trade secrets? They can be patterns, methodologies, techniques, processes or compilations - anything from customer data to the special ingredient that makes your product like no other.

The value of trade secrets comes precisely from their secrecy: If disclosed to competitors or the general public, the secret would become worthless. As a result, businesses must take steps to keep their trade secrets out of the wrong hands.

Identifying risks and preventing misappropriation

The biggest risk comes from employees and business partners. They have access to the ins and outs of your enterprise. When an employee leaves - whether on good terms or not - the last thing you want is for them to expose confidential data that will give your competitors an unbeatable advantage.

So how can you protect your trade secrets? It's wise to take action on all fronts, identifying vulnerabilities and putting safeguards into place before misappropriation occurs. Key steps include:

  • Adding strong confidentiality agreements in all employment contracts
  • Ensuring that transactional contracts also contain nondisclosure provisions concerning sensitive information
  • Maintaining strong IT security frameworks
  • Establishing a system for identifying confidential information and keeping it out of the public eye

Dealing with a breach

If a breach or misappropriation does occur, Georgia law provides a remedy. You may be able to put a halt to the disclosure by filing for an injunction. You may also be able to recovery economic damages (and, in some situations, exemplary damages) for your losses stemming from the misappropriation.

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Robert Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the May issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.Alex Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the December issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.

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