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Protecting trade secrets: It doesn’t happen automatically

Aug 27, 2020 | Trade Secrets

Automation and technology are among the most innovative and dynamic industries today. Global companies are competing alongside startups to deliver the newest, the best and the smartest products to consumers. In such a competitive environment, protecting proprietary information is critical.

And it’s not just the product element that is competitive; tech companies can also go head-to-head when it comes to recruiting employees. All this competition can drive businesses forward, but it can also leave them exposed to risks associated with employees taking trade secrets to a new job.

The price of stealing trade secrets

An employee who takes sensitive information without permission is at risk of criminal prosecution and severe penalties.

Recently, for instance, a so-called pioneer in the automated driving industry was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets.  He was accused of moving 14,000 files from Google, his previous employer, to his personal computer with the intention of using it for the benefit of a future employer, Uber Technologies, Inc.

Along with his prison sentence, the former engineer was also fired from his position at Uber. Further, the courts issued a fine of $95,000 and are requiring him to pay $757,000 to Google for restitution.

Protecting your trade secrets

There are many steps you can take to protect your company’s trade secrets. New employees may sign non-disclosure or non-compete agreements; you can hire or partner with security professionals to safeguard digital information; upon an employee’s departure, you should collect any company-provided devices.

Unfortunately, some parties will still violate trade secret protection, intentionally or accidentally.

If you suspect someone has improperly accessed or stolen sensitive data, you can notify the authorities and conduct an investigation. These efforts could uncover theft of trade secrets for which you can hold the perpetrator responsible.

Losing control over information that is critical to your business can be devastating and expensive. However, being proactive and following up on suspected theft immediately can allow you to minimize the potential damage.