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My business doesn't have trade secrets. Does it?

Terms such as intellectual property and trade secrets tend to bring up images of large corporations who need to circle the wagons around their operations in order to keep their proprietary information safe. Those businesses tend to allocate a certain percentage of their budgets to making sure that they retain the rights to their information, processes and products.

When it comes to small business owners, whether here in Florida or elsewhere, they tend not to think they even have intellectual property, let alone trade secrets. The problem with that line of thought is that it is most likely wrong. Just about every business has some sort of trade secret or other intellectual property worth protecting.

What constitutes a trade secret?

Okay, so now that you see you probably do have something to protect, you may wonder what constitutes a trade secret. Generally, any information about your business that you take measures to protect and is not generally known outside your company, and perhaps by the majority of your employees inside the company, is a trade secret. If you required your employees to sign confidentiality agreements or require them to keep their work confidential, your company has trade secrets.

One example of a trade secret is your customer or client list. If a competing company had this information as well, you would lose your edge in the market, so you protect the information. If you require your employees to sign non-compete agreements to prevent them from taking your clients when they leave, this makes it a trade secret.

The need for agreements

Since you can't register trade secrets as you can patents, copyrights and trademarks, you must rely on confidentiality and non-compete agreements to provide you with some legal recourse should your proprietary information leave your company. You may require employees to sign both, but you may also need to require the silence of third parties. Anytime you must reveal your trade secrets to a third party, it may be a good idea to obtain a confidentiality agreement.

Federal laws such as the Uniform Trade Secrets Act provide you with certain protections, along with the ability to pursue litigation if you believe someone stole or revealed your trade secrets. These agreements may represent your primary evidence. To make sure that your trade secrets receive the protection they deserve, it may be a good idea to make use of the legal resources at your disposal here in Tampa.

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Barker Cook

501 East Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 1040
Tampa, FL 33602

Phone: 813-489-1001
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