Trade secrets are as diverse as the businesses they belong to. Lists of customers, recipes, methods of operation, formulas, and pricing can all have a real impact on the success of your enterprise and can result in loss of profits if this information falls into the hands of competitors. There are steps you can take to protect trade secrets, as explained by the U.S. Small Business Association.
Know what your trade secrets are
Because the definition is broad, it's often difficult for business owners to properly identify what needs to be protected. The best strategy is to think about what aspects of your business would seem valuable to others if they were compromised. This can range from assets like customer contact information to specialized processes you've developed during operations. If you're unsure, speak with an attorney about should be protected.
Talk to your employees
Once you understand what your trade secrets are, the next step is bringing your employees up to speed. Non-disclosure agreements are ideal in this respect, as they provide legal ramifications for the unlawful release of information by new hires. You can even extend an agreement beyond the course of employment to prevent a former worker from taking your ideas to competitors. Also, make sure employees know exactly what they're restricted from discussing.
Understand the law
While you don't register trade secrets like you do other types of intellectual property, there are ways you can protect it legally. Most states, including California, have implemented laws derived from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which regulates theft of valuable information. Additionally, if you feel your rights have been violated you should contact an attorney right away to discuss your legal options. You may be able to launch a cease and desist, which prevents competitors from using your information to gain profits. You may also be able to seek damages for any profits already gained.