Innovation Asset Blog

Selective application key to trade secrets management

Choosing the correct intellectual property strategy to pursue can be as important as how that approach is executed. This maxim rings particularly true in the often misunderstood discipline of trade secrets management as many firms struggle to classify and protect their assets accordingly.

Trade secret protection is traditionally sought for proprietary information that does not necessarily fit into the standard IP categories of patent, copyright or trademark. According to Managing IP, formulas, quality control data and customer lists are just a few of the intellectual assets commonly incorporated into trade secrets management plans. But just as companies must be careful when selecting possible candidates for protection, they must also be cautious when deciding whom to share the information with.

Trade secrets need not be kept under the jurisdiction of one individual, as the information may only offer value when shared with business associates. According to the news source, compliance officers must issue and catalog non-disclosure agreements to all informed parties to ensure the integrity of trade secret status. Perhaps most importantly, this responsibility needs to be clearly communicated during initial employee interviews and handled accordingly in exit interviews.

These seemingly small bits of due diligence can be a major factor in future proceedings, as they were in a recent dispute over software designed to help oil companies better manage construction costs. After the original software creator partnered with multiple companies to extend the value of its proprietary methods, it soon became entangled in a patent infringement claim. According to Bloomberg, the firm's deliberate approach to trade secret management verified its innocence in the matter and spared it millions of dollars in potential legal damages.

Peter Ackerman

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.