For you to be successful in your Florida business, your product has to be unique. Customers will be less likely to overlook you for a cheaper model if you offer something no one else has.
However, your unique product or service likely involves a secret component, ingredient or process that you are very proud of. If your competitor learned your secret, your product would no longer have its unique quality. In order to prevent this, you have to protect your trade secrets.
How to protect your trade secrets
If you have an idea or process that gives you a competitive edge in your field, the law considers this a trade secret as long as you take every reasonable precaution to keep it secret. This means not allowing it to spread outside your company and limiting the access others have to it. Once you are certain that the loss of this information would be a serious blow to your company, you may consider taking these steps to protect your trade secret:
- Establish a written policy for how your company and its employees will manage the secrets. This not only provides a uniform strategy, but it clarifies your commitment to protect your secrets in case the question becomes a legal matter.
- Make sure your employees know the policy and comply with its commands. This critical step begins during the hiring process and continues regularly throughout an employee's term of service.
- When terminating an employee, conduct an exit interview to remind the employee of his or her continued obligation to protect the secrets of the company.
- Limit access to the trade secrets to only those employees who must know them to perform their jobs effectively.
- Identify and physically protect any documents that reveal the secrets of your company. This includes keeping such documents locked away separate from other company documents and limiting access to computers that contain secret files.
- Protect access to workspaces where employees implement the secrets, including through conversations or manufacturing of the product.
It is also wise to avoid being on the defense side of a trade secret dispute by resisting the urge to consider unsolicited ideas from outsiders. You may not know when such an idea is a trade secret stolen from another company.
Even taking these precautions may not stop someone from independently coming up with the same idea, and there is not much you can do about that. However, it is always a good strategy to seek legal advice if you suspect someone has illegally gained access to your trade secrets.