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Make sure you protect your company's trade secrets

As a business owner, you need to take steps to ensure that your company's trade secrets are protected. The first step toward making this happen is determining which aspects of your business are trade secrets that need protection.

This isn't always a simple and straightforward process. Some trade secrets are easy to find. These include recipes for restaurants and customer lists for other businesses. Essentially, you need to think about what points of your business might ruin the company if one of your competitors found out. Formulas, methods and similar information can all be trade secrets.

Once you determine what is classified as a trade secret, you need to make sure that you keep it confidential. Electronic documents should be password protected to ensure that only authorized people have access. Paper documents should be placed in a locked filing cabinet or safe. The idea is that you only want people you trust to be able to access the trade secrets.

The people you give access to should be coached about what must be done with the information. Ideally, you will have confidentially agreements with the people who have access to this information. This offers another level of protection that you can call into effect if something happens or the secret is leaked by an employee.

There are legal actions that you can take if your trade secrets are leaked. These include filing a civil lawsuit to recover the financial damages that occur because of the shared information. The whole process is a complex undertaking that you must ensure you are fully prepared to handle.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, "5 Steps for Protecting Your Trade Secrets," Barbara Weltman, accessed Jan. 10, 2018

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