How to protect your confidential information.
If you stop and think about your business you will realise that a major part of the value of your business is your confidential information and if that is misused and falls into the hands of a competitor then that can spell the downfall of your business. A common scenario is when a trusted employee sets up in completion using the business confidential information and takes a significant amount of business from their former employer.
What is confidential information?
This will vary from sector to sector and by individual business. Some generic categories are:
- Technical information such as details of recipes, production and distribution process, product design, inventions and improvements.
- Customer information such as customer contact details, enquiries, discussions about future plans, sales tracking.
- Financial information which could include profit margins, cash flow forecasts, sales targets, borrowing requirements and sensitive pricing information.
- Strategic information, this is anything to do with your future plans and may be new products, new markets, strategic hires or a sales campaign.
Protect your information
How you can protect your information depends on the nature of it but the following will be applicable to most of it.
- It is likely that some of your information will be protected by various intellectual property rights (IPR). Copyright will attach to such things as sales literature process maps etc, copyright arises from the production of the work and doesn’t have to be registered. If you have inventions or novel processes it may be that these can be protected with the application for a patent.
- All employees should have a confidentiality clause in their contracts of employment and the business should have a published policy on confidential information. Access to information should be limited to those who need to know in order to do their jobs.
When dealing with third parties, suppliers etc you should consider the use of a Non-Disclosure Agreement or Confidentiality Agreement to ensure that any confidential information that they obtain is only utilised for the purposes intended . You should again limit the amount of confidential information you release to that which is strictly necessary.
If your information is stolen or misused.
None of the above measures are self enforcing. This means that if your information has been taken then you will have to take steps yourself to enforce your rights. There are a wide range of legal remedies available but it is essential that you act quickly. In many cases it may be advisable to get an immediate order from the court stopping the use of the information and limiting the damage to the business.
Please note that these guides are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. You can contact one of our expert consultant lawyers using the form below.
Dr Sean Curley
Senior Consultant Commercial and Finance Litigation Solicitor
“If your information has been taken then you will have to take steps yourself to enforce your rights. There are a wide range of legal remedies available but it is essential that you act quickly.”