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There are ways to legally protect trade secrets

Trade secrets are different than trademarks and copyrights, and it's often a bit harder to protect them. For example, the formula that your company uses to make a cleaning product could be a trade secret. Your techniques for combining the different ingredients may also be a secret. Depending on the industry, secrets may also include certain patterns or processes.

Essentially, your company has an edge over the competition because of this information. It sets you apart. So, if it can't be protected in the same way as a trademarked name or a patented product, what can you do?

One step that many business owners take is simply to give employees a nondisclosure agreement when they are hired. To take the job, they must sign the binding agreement. In it, you simply state that they cannot give information away to the competition or leave and use the information for their own purposes. Certain things must stay secret as long as they work for the company and beyond.

The specific nondisclosure agreement that you draft depends on your company, the nature of the information being protected and many other factors. However, when done correctly, it gives you a legal basis of protection for the information that makes your company what it is, and it helps incentivize workers so that they do not let the information get out.

In a competitive marketplace, it's important to always know your legal rights and how you can protect yourself and your company. This is something you always want to look into before giving any employees or business partners access to the information you're seeking to preserve.

Source: Wells Fargo, "Four examples of intellectual property," accessed April 21, 2017

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