With the outbreak, more employees are working from home than ever before, and for many businesses, it has become necessary to revisit policies concerning the protection of trade secrets. It can be a challenge to keep proprietary information safe when employees need access to it from home, but it can be done with adequate protocols set in place.
Establishing Trade Secrets
The first principle of protecting trade secrets is to make sure they are legally recognized as such. In order for something to be considered a trade secret, you must have reasonable measures in place to protect it. Without those measures, it’s likely to lose that classification in a court of law.
Safeguarding Trade Secrets with Remote Workers
Safeguarding trade secrets takes a multifaceted approach. Some of the strategies you may want to employ include the following.
Establish a policy
It’s important to have a solid trade secret policy in your company. Your policy should outline:
- How trade secrets are to be labeled
- How they should be handled
- Who will have access to them
- How security will be maintained
Your policy should be viewed and signed by everyone in your company to make sure they understand your policies and are willing to comply with them.
Often, a nondisclosure agreement is necessary, especially for remote employees. An NDA should be constructed in such a way that it defines what your trade secrets entail and what the signer’s responsibility is in keeping them secret. Remote employees should sign and return an NDA before they are allowed access to your trade secrets.
Establish security protocols
Cybersecurity protocols and best practices may take many forms, but the best approach is to use a variety of strategies. Some recommended protocols include:
- Require employees to only use company-owned devices.
- Use a company VPN.
- Have employees keep company devices locked away when not in use.
- Require employees to use only password-protected networks.
- Limit trade secret materials to be used at home.
- Restrict which applications may be installed on devices.
- Implement remote locking features on company devices.
Train employees regularly
Periodically, you should train your employees in the practices and policies they’ll need to follow with respect to your trade secrets. Review what information constitutes a trade secret and what each person’s role is in keeping that information secure.
Plan for termination of employees
In the event that you need to terminate a work-from-home employee, you’ll need a plan to recover any corporate materials, including trade secrets and other information. The process you use should eliminate any opportunities your employees may have to compromise sensitive data.
Creating Trade Secret Policies for Your Business
If you rely on trade secrets to remain competitive, you’ll need to implement solid measures to keep them secure, especially if you have recently switched to a work-from-home workforce. The right strategy has a twofold objective:
- Protect the trade secret status of your data by implementing reasonable security measures.
- Prevent losses from compromised data.
Since agreements and contracts often play a role in safeguarding your trade secrets, it’s often best to involve an attorney when creating your policies and documents. If you have any questions, contacting an IP attorney can help you get on the right track.