Protecting Confidential Business Information – An Important Intellectual Property Strategy

Every business has confidential and proprietary knowledge that must be managed properly. This includes internal business procedures, customer lists, research and development records, inventions, product development plans and marketing plans. Access to this type of knowledge should be controlled to protect the interests of the company. Carefully monitored company policies and procedures are useful in protecting company assets.

Confidentiality Document. An important method of protecting sensitive data involves the diligent use of a written agreement, sometimes referred to as a Confidentiality or Proprietary Information Agreement. These documents are signed by every person who has access to any confidential information of the company. People who may access this type of data include: employees, contractors, vendors, advisors, investors, board members and prospective customers. Establish a company policy that requires individuals to sign this agreement before any confidential data is disclosed.

Assignment Requirement. Additionally, employees, contractors and similar personnel should sign a written agreement to disclose all innovations, creations and related information developed as part of their employment or contractual obligation with the company. This document also requires those individuals to assign their Intellectual Property rights in any innovation to the company. The requirement to assign innovations can be included in an employment contract, assignment document, or the Confidentiality document mentioned above.

Control Access. Another method of protecting sensitive data includes controlling access to that data. For example, only those employees, contractors, advisors, or other individuals that need access to this sensitive information are given appropriate access. Be careful to keep confidential items away from public areas of the company or areas that non-employees visit regularly.