If you're guessing it’s the secret formula for the Krabby Patty sorry—though you have to give Mr. Krabs his due—he’s held Plankton at bay for more than fifteen years. So then, what is it? Think.
That’s right—it’s the formula for good ol' Coca Cola®. It has been, continues to be, and probably always will be a trade secret. What’s important about the story is that Coke’s secret formula has only ever been protected as a trade secret. So how did they do it?
Chris Kelleher, award-winning advisor and attorney to small business and founder of The Law Firm for Businesses, answers that question in an article for Entrepreneur. If you want to legally protect your small business trade secrets, he suggests following these four simple rules:
1. A secret is a secret is a secret: As in, don’t tell anyone. Sounds easy, but you have to take pains to make sure that information isn’t shared voluntarily. Once it’s handed over to customers, or to trade associations, or splashed on your website, it loses its legal protection status.
2. Flash a warning: You can protect yourself legally by something as simple as including “Confidential” on documents which contain your secrets. You can add to the legal gravitas, according to Kelleher, with this warning on the cover:
“This item/document/material contains CONFIDENTIAL TRADE SECRET INFORMATION owned by [THE LEGAL NAME OF YOUR COMPANY] and/or its affiliated companies. This information is protected by applicable state law and may be protected by the federal Economic Espionage Act OF 1996 (18 U.S.C. Sec. 1831), which provides for criminal penalties of up to 15 years in prison and/or a $5 million fine for stealing, receiving, possessing and/or duplicating any information contained herein.”
3. Take a cue from Mr. Krabs: Lock intellectual property (IP) in your safe and don’t give out the combination,or lock them in a secure filing cabinet. If it’s on your computer, make sure it’s password-protected. Secret documents don’t go whole into the trash—you have to shred them. Traklight's IP Vault is your best option in this scenario because you can upload your documents directly to your secure IP Vault and manage your files and sharing with others from one location. No paperwork necessary. No threat in sharing confidential documents via email.
4. Confidentially speaking: On occasion, it may be necessary to share your trade secrets with outsiders. When you do, you’ll have to press a confidentiality agreement, signed by the recipient. Confidentiality agreements should be routine with employees and consultants, as well as any independent contractors of business partners.
So that’s it. Sounds simple, right? Well it is—and it isn’t. The laws which govern intellectual property vary from one state to another. If you want some real reassurance that your secrets are protected, in or out of court, let the professionals do what they do best. Traklight provides startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs with two software subscriptions that will help identify your intellectual property (IP) as well as a means by which to secure that IP online.
Get started protecting your intellectual property today. Become a member with Traklight.