Florida business owners: Are your trade secrets protected?

Competition in the business world is inevitable. For every product or service that is released, it isn't long until a similar business crops up. Considering how prevalent competition is and how important it can be to the marketplace, companies need to be sure they are taking the appropriate measures to protect the tools or ideas that set them apart from their competition.

These assets that contribute to a unique function or feature of a business may be considered trade secrets that can and should be protected.

There are a number of ways to protect trade secrets. Employees may be asked to sign non-disclosure agreements barring them from disclosing any protected information to parties outside the company. Passwords may be set up to limit access to sensitive information. Routine audits that identify where trade secret information is being kept can be conducted.

However, unless certain legal criteria are met, all of these efforts may be prove to be ineffective.

For example, if information does not qualify as a trade secret, it may not be protected. Trade secrets are defined, generally, as assets that have economic value, give a company some type of edge and are not available to the public. Information that does not fit the definition adopted by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act can be vulnerable to disclosure.

If information is defined as a trade secret but a non-disclosure agreement contains errors or illegal clauses, there may be no way to enforce it. This could mean that anyone in violation of it wouldn't be subject to penalties.

If information on the trade secrets is not well protected or companies lose track of who has access, the information can be leaked and it can be very difficult to figure out whom -- if anyone -- can be held accountable.

In the event that a trade secret is disclosed, companies typically have options to take legal action against the appropriate party. This may involve seeking resolution through arbitration, mediation or litigation, all of which may be successful but complicated.

However, instead of pursuing legal remedies after a trade secret has already been compromised, it can be wise for Orlando business owners to be proactive and discuss the resources available to avoid trade secret disputes with an attorney before an issue arises.