“We would encourage CEOs to apply the same focus and attention to protection of trade secrets that they apply to growing their business and meeting quarterly targets,” the US Chamber of Commerce’s Elliot says. Protecting trade secrets is not typically as costly or onerous as protecting other forms of intellectual property because they do not have to be registered with the government. Preserving trade secrets requires that companies, inventory their trade secrets, limit the number of people who know the information, develop technical controls to protect their trade secrets and train employees on the importance of trade secrets. They must also test their controls and implement action plans for responding to threats and actual theft. “Finding the best approach to protection will differ from one company to the next depending on its risk appetite,” Baker McKenzie’s O’Brien says. “But corporate leaders need to take the time to identify their most valuable trade secrets and determine how much their employees understand their importance.” Based on the results of that process, companies are best positioned to choose the most appropriate protective measures to take, from securing computer networks and monitoring employee electronic use to providing training, developing corporate policies, and requiring anyone who comes into contact with trade secrets to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Growing recognition among governments and companies of the importance of trade secrets and the need to protect them is a step in the right direction. But with just 31% of the executives in our survey reporting that their companies inventory their trade secrets and have action plans to respond to potential theft, there is more work to be done.