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What are you doing to protect your Trade Secrets and/or Proprietary Information?

I just attended a FBI briefing where they talked about protecting Trade Secrets/Proprietary Information and to some extent what levels of protection a company can instittute that would make release of said information actionable by the FBI.

 

So what do you do to protect these assets?

Answers

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

First and foremost (and this comes up in any M&A, and any good VC's due diligence), every employee, contractor etc signs the assignment and the NDA. Note that overseas there are variations; things like moral rights cannot be assigned or transferred, so you'll need a knowledgeable attorney.

Second, get a good IP attorney and a good IP plan. Terra and FR are both great firms, and can give advice about what to protect, how and where.

Third is process and management. DMSs are great because they track access, and can restrict it. File cabinets lock. Have a documented policy.

Fourth, track what you have. Documents of Origin should exist for whatever is created. Who created it, when, what outside tech was included, etc. If you end up in court defending your rights, having established not just that you filed first, but that you developed/acquired/etc the technology in a proper manner is a material fact.

Finally, and potentially most important, training. Talking about your new project over beers can end your rights. VCs aren't going to sign an NDA, so take great care that trade secret information isn't disclosed. I had a seasoned person demonstrate to me an *unprotected* $B-ish product to me...in a public setting; even the pros make serious mistakes. As the "risk managers", our obligation is to constant training about both how to protect IP, and perhaps more importantly, how people mess up. An aware staff is your best prophylactic.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Keith has some great ideas and numbered nicely. Simply stated - start with an Intellectual Property attorney and register your ownership. Then anyway you can continually document and make clear to all parties that the process is owned by you. In the end if someone infringes on your patent/trademark/copyright, you will need clear proof that the idea was yours first and that you actively are trying to protect these rights.

But even after everything is said and done, realize that protection is costly, and those that infringe on your rights will judge if you have the abilities to fight for your claims.

Interesting question after the Apple v Samsung case.

Ken Kaufman
Title: CFO
Company: Community Dental Partners
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Community Dental Partners) |

I really like Keith's list. I would add one thing...create a specific list of what the firm considers its trade secrets and proprietary information. Only share the list with your internal employees and make sure to keep it up-to-date. This will make it very clear so that if employees try to leave, they will clearly know what the firm will fight to protect.

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