Trade secrets are among the most nebulous forms of intellectual property in a business setting. These secrets add value to your Orange County, California companies.
However, they are also disturbingly easy to misappropriate. Examples of business trade secrets include:
- Research and development outcomes
- Software programming and algorithms
- Design materials like blueprints and schematics
- Formulas, recipes and ingredients
- Business methods used by a company
When an employee leaves your organization, there is a risk that they may take some of your trade secrets when they depart. Whether the employee was fired or left of their own accord, you have the power to reduce the risk of trade secret theft.
The exit interview is your best tool
A common practice of companies and businesses in California is conducting an exit interview with departing employees. These interviews are your chance to remind workers not to take or share your intellectual property. When possible, it is wise to have them return company property before the interview. Other protective steps to take during the interview include:
- Provide copies of all confidentiality agreements that the employee signed (as an additional reminder)
- Verify and discuss their access to specific confidential materials during their employment
- Have the exiting employee certify in writing that they have returned all company property
- Make a forensic image or clone of the hard drives the departing employee accessed during their employment
Unfortunately, there still exists a risk of trade secret theft despite your best efforts to enforce your ownership. If you discover that an employee has indeed stolen your confidential materials, intellectual property litigation can help you resolve the matter. If you act quickly, you may prevent your trade secrets from falling into the hands of your competitors.