As the name would imply, trade secrets constitute a unique competitive advantage possessed by a company that must remain under wraps and diligently protected at all times. The problem is, many companies lack of full understanding of the trade secrets that could be, or already are, in their IP portfolios.
According to IP Watchdog founder Gene Quinn, most assume that trade secrets are characterized by high-tech blueprints and secret formulas. In reality, anything from a customer list to information regarding last quarter's profits could be classified as a trade secret. The distinguishing quality is that it is something you would not want a competitor to get its hands on.
The safest way to ensure trade secrets are viewed by authorized eyes only is to focus on employee access privileges. According to Quinn, disgruntled employees, or those later poached by rival firms, have been known to divulge the type of secrets that can sink a business. Whether under lock and key or confidentiality agreements, companies must take preventative measures and ensure they have avenues for recourse.
This week, a former Intel engineer pleaded guilty to pilfering proprietary data related to the chip maker's next-generation computer processors. The company was lucky enough to discover the plot before it was too late, but an untold number of similar cases could go undetected.