Business owners face unique challenges when it comes to protecting trade secrets or proprietary information. Employees often need access to information that would be damaging if it got into the hands of a competitor. If those employees leave, they take that knowledge with them. It can be difficult to maintain intellectual capital unless you are willing to devote significant time and attention to the issue.
Patents can obviously secure exclusivity for some intellectual property. Patents are not available for everything, however, and they may not be the best solution even if they are available. Employment agreements and other trade secret protections can aid a business in securing the benefits of ingenuity, efficiency and creativity.
Beware The Overly Broad Non-Compete Agreement
Employers are limited in their ability to restrict the movements of employees who choose to leave. Non-compete agreements are a common tool used by employers to prevent workers from using their knowledge of company secrets to benefit competitors when they leave. Such agreements must be carefully tailored to maximize the chances of a court protecting the business's interests in the event of a dispute.
Employers are not likely to prevail if they restrict an employee's right to work for another company in the industry. They are likewise unlikely to prevail if they attempt to restrict the worker from holding a job elsewhere in the state. Finally, these agreements are not likely to be upheld if they attempt to restrict an employee from working for a competitor far into the future. But even an agreement that is limited in size, length and impact might be tossed out if the courts disagree about what constitutes a competitor.
Taking the time to craft powerful non-compete and non-disclosure agreements is vital. While it may be frustrating to expend resources to guard against a problem that may never manifest, it is far less frustrating than watching your closely guarded secrets walk out your door and into the hands of your competitors.