It seems like threats to trade secrets and proprietary information are increasing exponentially. News reports of large-scale data thefts have become an almost daily occurrence. And employees are more likely to switch jobs, taking your proprietary information with them. Meanwhile, technology has increased the risk of inadvertent disclosure, since most employees are walking around with critical business information on their smartphones.
This leads to the question all trade-secrets owners must ask: What am I doing to create a culture of protection at my company?
Company culture comes up in a lot of settings, but not often enough in the context of protecting trade secrets. Since your employees are on the front lines, working with your trade secrets, they need to have protection at the front of their minds.
It is not easy to create a culture of protection. It takes a clear strategy, implemented consistently over time. It must start when employees are hired, with trade-secrets training included in the onboarding process. But training is nowhere near enough.
Trade-secret protection needs to be a part of every employee’s daily routine. The goal is to build habits that decrease the risk of disclosure. For example, employees need to lock their computers every time they leave. They need to be aware of and on the lookout for spear phishing scams. And they need to know exactly how to handle documents containing trade secrets or other critical proprietary information.
At the risk of sounding like a speaker at a corporate retreat, culture starts at the top. Employees need to hear from your company’s most senior executives that trade-secret protection is one of everyone’s core job responsibilities.
The new year provides an excellent opportunity to consider your company’s culture of protection. This culture has never been more important. If your company falls short, now is the time to make changes. If you do not have a formal trade-secrets policy, speak to an attorney to implement one.
Happy new year, everyone.