ately. When in doubt, mark the document, but make sure you
do so legally. For example, if you claim common law rights in a
name, use the often seen ™ at the end of the word. As with other
practices, this puts the thief on notice, demonstrates commitment
to secrecy by the company, and validates court claims of value and
• Use Employee Manuals. These books outline the general rules of
the workplace for all employees. They provide the perfect means
for clarifying and emphasizing strict processes
and obligations of employees for maintaining
the security of company information. They
can also reinforce the need (but not substitute for agreements) to maintain materials
as confidential, and evidence a “corporate
commitment” to confidentiality.
• Reject Stolen Property. Often new employees will bring pilfered IP from their last job.
Just as someone would reject a gift of clearly
stolen merchandise, so should businesses reject improperly obtained software, customer
lists or materials (marketing materials, manuals, etc.) from a new employee. Businesses
with “unclean hands” should hardly expect
• Monitor Guests; Limit Access. Businesses
should keep a strict log of any guests. This
could be as simple as a sign-in sheet, or the
provision of temporary electronic badges that
guests can use to check in or out of company
premises. Such procedures are compelling
evidence of a business’s sincerity in protecting its secrets and other IP items, while also
demonstrating the value of its confidential
• Embrace Shredding. Rather than toss
confidential information in the garbage,
use shredders liberally. It will prevent others
from rifling through your garbage to steal
valuable information, and again, it reinforces
your claim before a court that certain information is both valuable and proprietary. If
litigation is afoot, however, or even threatened, as to any particular business secrets or
other IP items, make sure to check with your
counsel before continuing routine shredding
The Bottom Line
By following these tips, not only will a distributor be more likely to prevail in court (if
need be), but unscrupulous individuals will be
less inclined – and less able – to untangle the
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protections to steal business secrets. Like car alarms, these protections cannot prevent every theft, but they might make it difficult
enough for a trade secrets thief to target your business.
For more information on this topic, contact Fred at fmendelsohn@
burkelaw.com or 312/840-7004 or my partner, Craig McCrohon at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 312/840-7006.