Attire Accessories - Dec 2017/Jan 2018 (Issue 67)

ACID’s CEO Dids Macdonald explains the importance of protecting your company’s trade secrets and how to keep them Did you know that whilst the renowned, world-famous Coca Cola or Coke brand is protected by global trademarks and other intellectual property rights, the formula behind making Coca Cola is a fiercely guarded trade secret that only a handful of people in the world know? Whether you are a major PLC or a lone, micro or SME, losing any secrets which give you the competitive edge can be devastating. SOWHY ARE TRADE SECRETS SO IMPORTANT? Most companies innovate to enhance their performance to deliver a refined service or product whether by evolving and improving manufacturing processes, systems, formulas or, quite simply, creating an invaluable database of relevant information about buyers, competitors, suppliers et al . So, a trade secret is any information which is unique and valuable to you and your business but which isn’t necessarily known outside your sphere. Trade secrets are particularly important for micro and SMEs which don’t necessarily have the budget for a large portfolio of intellectual property rights. Guarding trade secrets fiercely enough is something that many lone, micro and SME companies fail to do. TRADE SECRETS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY First, identify what are the aspects (or secrets) about YOUR enterprise which gives you the competitive edge? Can you identify confidential business information which would compromise your position in the market if everyone knew? If so, then you probably have trade secrets which encompass manufacturing or industrial and commercial secrets. What is more important is that their unauthorised use by other than the holder is regarded as unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret. According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, “The subject matter of trade secrets is usually defined in broad terms and includes sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, and advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. While a final determination of what information constitutes a trade secret will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, clearly unfair practices in respect of secret information include industrial or commercial espionage, breach of contract and breach of confidence.” A recent directive on trade secrets by the European Commission focuses on “the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure.” In a fascinating seminar held some time ago, this could, according to Jonathan Cornthwaite of Wedlake Bell, be a real boon to SMEs and a ground-breaking initiative. Why? Because unlike most other types of intellectual property rights, breach of confidence (of trade secrets) is not the subject of any specific legislation and so there is uncertainty.The benefits of the recent 2016 Directive will mean that existing laws will have legislative certainty and it should help to raise the importance of the protection of business confidences. ME TIPS AND GUIDELINES ON TRADE SECRETS 1. Assess whether your secret is protected by formal IP rights. The most common are copyright, trademarks, design right and patents. If so, register or, in the case of copyright, which arises automatically, make sure your paper trail is signed and dated. Don’t forget, a significant benefit to ACID members for any trade secrets is to upload a copy to the online Copyright & Design Databank which doesn’t add to rights, but provides uniquely numbered evidence of the date they are received and locked down by ACID. Critical evidence should it ever be required to challenge anyone who has run off with your secrets. 2. Ensure that there are provisions in your organisation that as few people as possible know about your trade secret and that all that do are aware that it’s confidential information. 3. Have a look at your employment contracts and check whether there Are you up to speed on protecting your trade secrets? 100 ATTIRE