Trade secrets do not always attract the same level of executive attention as separate intellectual assets, but mismanaging these sensitive materials can prove just as costly. Companies should revisit how they classify and protect their trade secrets to help mitigate the potential impact of any future misappropriation.
In a recent guest column for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, licensed physician and practicing attorney Judy Mohr suggested that current uncertainties in the world of biomedical patents have placed a premium on diligent trade secrets management. Most importantly, organizations must establish several verifiable policies and procedures to retain access to all available forms of legal recourse should their assets be compromised.
According to Mohr, key action items include:
- Conducting internal inquiries to identify confidential information that may warrant trade secret classification
- Disclosing the trade secret register to employees and delineating consequences for procedural and contractual violations
- Exercising "reasonable" caution to restrict physical and digital access to sensitive assets
Trade secret managers should routinely review their asset inventory as well, in addition to any pertinent legal developments. This is particularly important for companies operating internationally, as foreign IP authorities may be less stable than their American counterparts. A recent judicial ruling in China, for example, only just got around to setting what could be an important legal precedent in that country regarding the enforcement of trade secrets.