Trade Secret Protection in the Remote Working World
Out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic and related “stay-in-place” orders, many businesses have transitioned their workforce to work-from-home or similar remote working arrangements. The working world is making considerable use of Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and other video/audio conferencing platforms that allow employees to reach their teams, customers, vendors, and other key contacts remotely. With remote work comes the wide use of personal smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
What cannot get lost in all this is the business’ need to protect one of its most valuable assets: trade secrets. Here are a few steps businesses can take to keep critical information private and protected:
- Confirm that recipients of emails, text messages, and other communications containing trade secrets are trusted persons within your organization and clearly remind them in writing that such information is not to be forwarded or disclosed to third parties.
- Before presenting or discussing trade secrets during a web conference, make sure to identify all participants and confirm the invitee list comprises those who are permitted access to your secret information.
- Discourage transmission and discussion of trade secrets via unsecured connections; instead, log in to your firewall-protected, secured connections whenever possible when sensitive information is being transmitted.
- Limit the amount of people who have password access to your critical information and check with your IT professionals to make sure the password protection is secure when working remotely.
- Selectively distribute information on a “need-to-know” basis.
- Adopt/reinforce a no exceptions policy prohibiting disclosure of company information on social media or in connection with surveys and other information gathering activities.
- Where appropriate, disable USB ports, portable devices, and drives on company computers.
- Encode the company’s software and data files with markers that detect copying.
Remember, it only takes one leak of critical information to lose your competitive edge. Stay vigilant with your trade secret protection. For more information on protecting your trade secrets, please contact John Jackson, Paul Weidlich, or your relationship attorney.
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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings, and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. In some cases, the underlying legal information is changing quickly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Please contact your legal counsel for advice regarding specific situations.