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Troy, Mich.—August 20, 2021—Fishman Stewart, an intellectual property specialty law firm, has long recommended to clients that they protect their trade secrets from departing employees. Now, with the proliferation of remote work, employees leaving their employers at record rates, and white-collar employees secretly working two jobs remotely, IP attorney Maxwell Goss says it’s time to revisit and strengthen trade secret practices for the modern workplace.
“Technology, for all of its advantages, makes it shockingly easy to steal a company’s trade secrets – especially with more employees heading out the door than any other time in recent history,” Goss said. “The remote work option presents yet another opportunity for trade secret misappropriation as employees access and use company information on personal devices and in unmonitored settings.”
Goss explains that nearly every company has trade secrets, which may include both business information, such as customer lists, pricing and margin information, and marketing plans, and technical information, such as engineering plans, software code, and research data.
“In the digital era, opportunities for trade secret theft abound,” Goss said. “It takes only moments for a disgruntled employee to grab valuable digital data assets by uploading them to a USB drive or forwarding them to a personal email address. For those working in an office, the old-fashioned option of slipping proprietary papers into a briefcase remains a threat. Whatever the method, trade secrets are taken and shared with competitors all too often. Employers should be on guard.”
Goss identifies five key strategies that employers can use to safeguard trade secrets and other confidential information in today’s workplace:
- Conduct a trade secret audit to identify key assets and evaluate existing protections
- Develop and follow strong, up-to-date cybersecurity protocols
- Implement employee policies governing the use of personal devices and accounts
- Require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements and, where warranted, well-crafted non-compete agreements
- Conduct exit interviews with departing employees
“When it comes to trade secrets, courts help those who help themselves,” Goss said. “If legal action becomes necessary, the court will require an employer to show the steps it took to protect its information.”
Goss adds that when trade secret theft is suspected or valuable information has been stolen, the clock is ticking, and swift action is required to mitigate damage.
“The negative effects of trade secret theft can be far-reaching and, in some cases, felt almost immediately. At the same time, evidence tends to evaporate quickly, so a prompt and thorough investigation is usually critical to protecting company assets,” Goss said.
About Fishman Stewart PLLC
Celebrating a quarter century in 2021, Fishman Stewart helps turn client creativity into valuable intellectual capital. Since 1996, the firm has obtained tens of thousands of patents and trademarks and represented clients in hundreds of cases in Federal Court. As strategic advisers to CEOs and senior executives, Fishman Stewart attorneys have developed IP management strategies for U.S. and foreign-based companies, from middle market to Fortune 500, to safeguard their business assets throughout the world. To discover how Fishman Stewart leverages intellectual property to effectively protect new product lines, increase market share and head off the competition, visit fishstewip.com.
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