Protecting Your Company’s Trade Secret and Proprietary Information
Most California employers are concerned about the concept of employee “non-compete agreements” to ensure that present and future employees do not take what they learn in their employ and use it to compete against the company in the future. The Watkins Firm has served the San Diego business community for decades, and we understand the concerns our clients bring to the table regarding non-compete related issues. It is generally known (and local case law clearly establishes) that California is not friendly to non-compete agreements from an employer’s point of view. How then does an employer protect itself and the integrity of their business model while developing employees who can deploy the company’s expertise, products and services to generate profit? California may be a very lenient state when it comes to non-compete agreements, however, our courts strictly enforce trade secret misappropriation. The misappropriation of trade secrets is a violation of tort law, and can result in monetary damages and an injunction or “cease and desist” order. We provide a comprehensive trade secret strategy for our clients that is designed to protect the information that is core to their company’s business, while limiting an employee’s ability to use what they’ve learned on the job to compete against them.
What Information Can Be Protected as a Trade Secret?
Many experienced business professionals do not completely or accurately understand the genuine nature of what the law identifies as a “trade secret.” Some may be obvious such as the recipe to a major cola, or how to prepare fried chicken. However, for most companies this concept relates to proprietary internal information such as:
- Customer and Supplier Lists
- Costs, Contracts and Strategies
- Marketing Processes and Vehicles
- Technical and Industry Specific Knowledge
- Correspondence Including E-Mails
- Equipment, Products and Processes
Is a Corporate Trade Secret Strategy Limited to Documentation and Agreements?
A company’s proprietary or trade secret information must be clearly established in its employee handbooks, workplace and HR documentation, as well as any employment contracts between the company and its employees. Once this foundational basis is in place, ongoing efforts and consistent action must be taken to protect the integrity of the information, and to educate employees on the nature of the data and how it is to be handled and applied. Proprietary information must be set apart, clearly identified and controlled. There must be consistent internal communications and ongoing education as to the nature of internal trade secret information and the procedures associated with protecting it before, during and after leaving the company’s employ.
Protect Your Company from Misappropriation of Trade Secrets By Employees to Compete Against You
A well-conceived and executed trade secret strategy is one of the most effective tools to prevent an employee from leaving the company to compete against you. If an employee or contract misappropriates your trade secrets and attempts to use them to compete against you we can put a stop to it, and recover monetary damages for the impact that action has made upon your business. The documentation, policies and procedures associated with trade secrets is quite legally complex and requires extensive legal experience and expertise. If you would like to learn more about California law and its implications for non-compete agreements and misappropriation of trade secrets strategies contact us, or call us at 858-535-1511 for a substantive and complimentary consultation. We will discuss your unique business, review existing documentation and processes, and develop a strategy to protect the integrity of your business and secure the proprietary information that gives you a competitive edge.