September 28, 2020 Articles

Tips for Protecting Trade Secrets in the Face of Remote Workforces, New Technology, and Laid-Off Employees

As companies adapt to our rapidly changing circumstances, they may inadvertently place the protection of their trade secrets on the backburner.

By Jeremy Cohen, Marcus Mintz, and Erik Weibust

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have rolled out new (and often unsecure) technology and have relaxed existing security measures in the name of efficiency and convenience. As companies continue to adapt to these rapidly changing circumstances, they may inadvertently place the protection of their trade secrets on the backburner. However, if companies want to maintain control over their most important intangible assets, they must affirmatively act to protect their trade secrets during the pandemic and as the economy continues to reopen.

“Reasonable Measures” to Protect Trade Secrets with a Remote Workforce

In the understandable rush to “flatten the curve” and keep employees and communities safe, many businesses have hastily provided remote access to systems and data, without ensuring that new technologies are secure or without implementing and strengthening remote work policies and procedures. In fact, some companies are actually relaxing security standards in the name of convenience and efficiency. Unfortunately, some opportunistic employees may exploit this new arrangement for nefarious purposes, while even well-intentioned employees may be careless and expose confidential information without intending to or without realizing that they have done so. Either scenario can lead to equally bad business and competitive outcomes. It can also lead to bad legal outcomes because both the Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act require parties to take “reasonable measures” to protect trade secrets—even during a pandemic. Reasonable measures should include the following:

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