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Trade secrets: You can litigate if trade secrets are exposed

Imagine building up your business from the ground. You have special menu items at your restaurant and secret ingredients that make people come back over and over again. These are your trade secrets. Trade secrets are called secrets for a reason. If you give them away, your business could end up falling out from under you. Certain formulas and business practices are your specific creation, so it's important to protect those ideas. 

How can you protect your trade secrets? First, start by identifying them. If you have a specific method, process, device or technique, you need to identify your asset as a trade secret. Recipes, for instance, are a particular kind of trade secret that could make or break a brand. Imagine if Coca-Cola's formula suddenly hit the market; there would be a sudden introduction of duplicate products, and the company would no longer be as prestigious and one-of-a-kind as it was in the past.

Another way to protect your secrets is to keep them secrets. In some companies, employees and managers don't know the secret ingredients in a recipe, for example. Keeping trade secrets on a need-to-know basis is key to protecting your most valuable assets. Also, lock up your secrets and limit access to a few different computers or backup files, so it's harder to access them without permission

Finally, make sure you talk to your staff about what happens if someone violates the company's trade secret policies. You should take civil actions against those who leak information about your trade secrets or pass them along to others. If a competitor is using your trade secret, you can also take legal action to stop that from happening. Your attorney is there to help you take action if or when someone violates your trust.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, "5 Steps for Protecting Your Trade Secrets," Barbara Weltman, accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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