Business Dispute Lawyer Charlottesville, VA
Protecting the Trade Secrets of Your Business
In the age of technology and the Internet, many businesses are more concerned than ever about protecting trade secrets, and may rely on a business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville, Virginia at Dale Jense, PLC for advice and information. Data shows that trade secret litigation in federal courts continues to spike each year. In the majority of these cases, the person alleged to have misappropriated trade secrets was either or business partner. It is estimated that businesses lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year due to the misappropriation of trade secrets.
The reality of today’s job market is that very few employees will remain with one company for their entire career. As a result, one of the biggest threats to businesses when it comes to trade secrets is current and departing employees. It is essential that businesses be proactive in safeguarding trade secrets, not only as a means of avoiding costly litigation, but to protect the bottom line.
Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights
The U.S. federal government issues three major kinds of legally enforceable intellectual property protections. It issues trademarks for advertising tools that allow companies to distinguish themselves and their products/services in the marketplace. It also issues patents for inventors and copyrights for creative works of expression.
The only major form of intellectual property that the federal government does not specifically protect itself involves the trade secrets of various companies. When businesses want to protect their trade secrets, they do not look to federal agencies for help. Instead, they work with an attorney in order to safeguard their secrets through various contractual means.
Definition of a Trade Secret
As a VA business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville can explain, the United States government passed into law the Uniform Trade Secrets Act in 1979, which can be found in Civil Code § 3426. Under Civil Code Sec. 3426.1 (d). The majority of states in this country have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act as the law that governs trade secrets in their state. According to the statute, a trade secret is defined as:
Information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:
- Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and
- Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
The law makes clear that in order for trade secrets to be legally protected, a business must take reasonable steps to safeguard and maintain the secrecy of that information with the help of a business dispute lawyer in VA from Dale Jensen, PLC.
What You Can Do to Safeguard Trade Secrets
Non-compete clauses in employment contracts are largely unenforceable in most states as a matter of public policy. Although your state may have some limited exceptions, employers should assume that employees are free to work for competitors when they leave and plan accordingly. The following includes just some of the steps that can be taken to help prevent misappropriation of trade secrets:
- Require employees who will or currently have access to trade secrets to sign proprietary information or confidentiality agreements.
- Adopt and enforce personnel policies that prohibit employees from emailing information that contains trade secrets to personal email addresses.
- In order to assist employees in understanding what they are required to protect, clearly mark documents that contain trade secrets or sensitive information as “confidential.”
- Limit access to confidential information or trade secrets to employees who are required to use this information as part of their job.
Trade secrets allow companies to maintain “a competitive edge” in the marketplace. A business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville help businesses safeguard these secrets primarily through non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses and other contractual tools. In a nutshell, companies must take care to legally bind anyone exposed to its trade secrets to maintaining discretion. Once contractually obligated to honor a company’s trade secrets, employees, contractors, vendors and even other businesses may be held legally accountable in the event that they breach these contractual mandates.
It is therefore important that businesses whose trade secrets do allow them a competitive edge in the marketplace work closely with an attorney to protect these trade secrets in legally enforceable ways. Depending on the secret in question (and the legal status of those exposed to the secret) an attorney may be able to use any number of legal tools to safeguard the proprietary information.
This information may manifest in the form of formulas, production design, manufacturing processes, blueprints, etc. If a “piece” of intellectual property is not covered by the laws of trademark, copyright or patent, chances are that it will be treated as a trade secret under the law. A Charlottesville, VA business dispute lawyer can help you determine what kinds of protection your company’s secrets may benefit from and/or how existing protections may be appropriately enforced.
Legal Guidance Is Available
If you have questions related to protecting your company’s trade secrets and/or other intellectual property, please do not hesitate to connect with a member of our legal team. Trade secrets and other intellectual property tend to serve as some of a company’s most valuable assets. Depending on the company in question, trade secrets may serve as the single greatest asset available to a business.
It is therefore critically important not only to ensure that these secrets are protected, but also imperative to ensure that they are protected in legally enforceable ways. As a result of this proactive legal behavior, a company will be able to hold would-be infringers accountable if they ever decide to reveal privileged information.
Protect Your Business
Well-drafted employment contracts and sound employment practices can prevent many problems well in advance. Our team is business savvy can devise the best legal strategies and business solutions to ensure your business is protected. Contact a Virginia business dispute lawyer in Charlottesville from Dale Jensen, PLC today to discuss your legal options and how we can help.