2. Step 2: Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe
Future IPRs that are currently unregistered
should be considere d as trade secre ts and
protected a s such until their registr ation. Leak of
unregistered I PRs could ren der them impossibl e
to register at a later s tage. For exam ple, a leak
of information relat ed to future inn ovation
patent will make it imp ossible to comply wit h
the novelty req uirement and thus the pate nt will
not be granted .
How to identify your trade secrets
To identify your trade sec rets, star t with the
following basic ques tions:
-Is this information not p ublicly known /not
known by my compet itors?
-Will it hurt my busin ess if my competitor s
obtain this infor mation?
-How much will it hurt my business if my
competitor obt ain this information?
It is important to remember that once trade secrets become
publicly known, they can no longer be protected as trade
secrets. Ways in which a trade secret can be disclosed would
include publication, disclosure of technical information by
your engineer during a seminar, disclosure of information or
documents during negotiations and other business dealings
with third parties without a non-disclosure agreement,
conversations, accidental disclosure by misdirected E-mails
or other correspondence, etc.
Trade secrets dier from jewellery or other valuables in that
they are not always in a tangible form, but as with anything
of value, it is important to keep trade secrets secret and safe.
Trade secrets may be stored in printed documents, CDs or
DVDs, computer les and hard drives, USB drives, or even in
your head. As it is not always practical or possible to keep
trade secrets locked away, keeping trade secrets safe involves
using a combination of physical, technical, and contractual
barriers and implementing a trade secrets protection policy.
Although some businesses go to great lengths to protect
their trade secrets, any business can and should take simple,
Physical barriers may include simply marking documents
“CONFIDENTIAL”, keeping sensitive documents in a safe,
undisclosed location, and locking les away aer business
hours. In addition, access to areas where sensitive business
documents are stored should be restricted to certain
employees. Limit access and copying rights to the personnel
who actually need it. All visitors should be logged, required to
sign a nondisclosure agreement before being granted access
to sensitive areas of your premises, and should not be le
Technical barriers require the use of information technology
(IT) to protect trade secrets stored in electronic les on your
computers or data servers. The basic rule in IT security is
that the more valuable the information, the harder, more
expensive, and more dicult it is to protect. Consulting an IT
security specialist can help you to design a cost-eective IT
security system. However, even simple, inexpensive means
of IT security measures can be used such as employing the
proper use of passwords, commercially available encryption,
and logging features. In addition, it is important to have a
written technology policy in place and to ensure that your
employees abide by the technology policy. For example, as
it is extremely easy for your employees to E-mail sensitive
documents to third parties or to transfer les using USB
memory cards or CD/DVDs, you might want to consider
restricting the ability of your employees to use USB memory
If you have not already done so, it is important to catalogue what trade secrets you may have, rank the trade secrets in terms
of importance and value, and to remember to periodically update your catalogue as your business grows.