Trade Secrets:Working from Home?

How does a company maintain protection of trade secrets when its workforce is remote? It is hard enough when you are in the office; then, you can police the flow of paper, lock things in cabinets with sign-outs, keep all information on company IP systems, maintain morale to decrease temptation.

Although the level of remote work today in unprecedented, people have been working remotely for many years. So there is court guidance on what a company program should look like to make sure that your trade secrets remain protected and cannot be legally used by others.

You can: have a written “work from home” agreement or policy reminding that trade secrets are to be maintained; do on-line training; reiterate extant trade secret and noncomp agreements; require use only of company IT systems; prohibit screen shots; protect business matters from others in the household; while proprietary information now will likely be disseminated simultaneously to several people, use IT to establish a log-in and delete protocol with a ban on copying; establish an identified executive with authority to control access when there is a question; continue to avoid publication; continue to require third parties (customers and vendors) with necessary access to sign a trade secret agreement or clause; make clear by agreement or policy that working from home or permitted or accidental use of non-company computer hardware( or systems or sites) does not result in a loss of trade secret status; do not abandon exit interviews to remind people of their secrecy obligations.

And since maintenance of trade secrets is much a matter of procedures to enforce intent, companies should document these efforts. Indeed, today is a good time to review, update and reiterate trade secret policies across your company. Your lawyers and HR people should be prompted to attend to the issue of trade secret maintenance in light of changing work patterns.

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