Any confidential business information which can give a competitive edge to a business or an organization can be called a trade secret. It can include manufacturing, industrial and commercial secrets and sometimes even secrets related to the staff and human resources. If any unauthorized person uses or is holding such information then it can be regarded as a violation of the trade secret and can be considered a serious offense. In the legal system, it can lead to punishment and fines.
Trade secrets usually include sales and distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, information about clients and suppliers and of course the manufacturing process. Any information can be called a trade secret only if it has the following characteristics:
1. It is not public information
2. Its secrecy provides an economic benefit
3. Its secrecy is actively being protected.
Continuously finding ideas that are creative and inventive is a challenge. To provide a competitive edge, it is necessary that the products and processes cannot be copied. This pressure creates the need to sometimes try and gain information by illegal means and in unscrupulous ways. Most of the violations are done by the people working presently in the company or by ex-workers who are now working for a competitor. While working in an organization, there is a physical contract between the employer and the employee which lists all the major dos and don’ts. But there is an invisible, psychological contract between the two, which is a set of expectations they have from each other.
An employee has to understand and follow the company’s culture. He or she has to learn what is acceptable or not, their duties and their rights. An employee automatically owes confidentiality to his employer. Nowadays when the attrition rates are so high, the companies are realizing that the psychological contract does not have any sanctity.
It is better to put everything related to confidentiality and secrets in the written contract. It is normal for companies to ask their employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement especially the ones who are going to come in contact with the trade secrets. Another popular clause is the non-competitive clause which prevents employees from pursuing a similar profession or work in a similar position in a competitor’s organization. Go to the official site to learn more.
Trade secrets are not limited to big organizations or government agencies. Even restaurants and food companies are always on the lookout for information about their competitors. Recipes and manufacturing processes of certain food item have been a secret for years and there have been attempts to get hold of these secrets. Loyalty to the employer and the organization was considered a given for any employee but it is not so anymore. It is better to be careful then to regret later