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How to keep your trade secrets under lock and key

As a South Carolina business owner, you understand that no day, week or even year in the business world is perfect. Within your own company, you and your employees experience ups and downs. You do your best to overcome any obstacles that arise and you rejoice when you are on top of your game, workers' morale is high and profit is rolling in. At the same time, you know that if you want to maintain the highest level of success possible, there are certain issues of paramount importance.

Your company didn't get where it is today because you sat back and did nothing. You've always prided yourself on taking an active role on the main front and behind the scenes in your business. Lately, you've been hearing about many other business owners who have suffered economic losses after someone stole their trade secrets. Protecting your company's interests is your highest priority, so you want to know how to avoid a similar outcome. Knowing where to turn for help is a good place to start.

Practical ways to keep your secrets, secret

South Carolina law, like most other states, provides registration processes for business owners and others wanting to protect patents and copyrights. While the law does protect trade secrets, there is not usually a formal way to register them as with other forms of intellectual property. The following list, however, provides tips for keeping your trade secrets safe:

  • Share them selectively: One of the simplest ways to keep your company's trade secrets secure is to be extremely cautious regarding with whom you share them in the first place. Many seemingly casual conversations have led to business disasters when company owners reveal information that ends up used against them to give competitors an edge.
  • Use non-disclosure agreements: When you hire new employees, ask them to sign documents promising to keep their knowledge of your trade secrets confidential. Include stipulations in such agreements that bind the employees to confidentiality while they remain on your payroll as well as if they leave your company to work elsewhere.
  • Make hard copies and secure them: In order to clearly define your trade secrets, it may help to construct a written list. This is also good to have in case any digital copy you possess gets lost or destroyed. You'll want to make sure, however, that you lock any hard copy you create in a safe deposit box or other secure area.
  • Know what to do if a breach occurs: There are specific legal actions you can take if someone violates your rights as a business owner by obtaining or using your trade secrets without permission.

Trade secrets include any and all information pertaining to software, protocol, client information, pricing lists, designs or systems that are crucial to the functioning of your business or give it an edge over its competitors.

Many South Carolina business owners have used aggressive litigation to recover losses they suffered due to trade secret thefts.

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