Protection of products and services in the right way and at the right time are essential factors for a successful company. Trade secrets are a major part of intellectual assets and daily activities of companies.
Early stages of companies particularly risky - prevent information leakage
Together with industrial property rights and copyrights, legal protection of trade secrets is an important protection method of the know-how of companies . It is vital for new and small companies as well as start-ups, in particular, to remember to protect their trade secrets right at the outset of business activities to achieve competitive edge and to prevent information from leaking to outsiders. It must additionally be noted that all information considered to be trade secrets cannot even be protected by industrial property rights or copyrights. For example, innovations concerning production processes and services are often protected with trade secrets. In a comprehensive protection strategy of intellectual rights, the protection of trade secrets and patenting often complement each other.
For infringements crossing borders, there is an EU directive to bring about legal security
In Finland, trade secrets are provided for in several laws, and the level of protection has traditionally been considered high. The penal system protecting trade secrets, in particular, is extensive with a high level of protection. However, trade secrets and infringements associated with them are more and more international. For example, companies have cooperation partners abroad, and employees change employers and start working in other countries. Problems may have been caused by the regulations and levels of protection in different EU member states having significantly differed from each other.
This is about to change. The EU directive on trade secrets became effective in the summer of 2016. This directive changes the protection of trade secrets both at the EU level and internationally. The preparation of the national enforcement of the trade secrets directive is ongoing, with a deadline of June 9, 2018.
In Finland, the law being drafted will unlikely result in any major changes to the prevailing practice. The law will, with all probability, specify and clarify the regulations concerning trade secrets as well as the status of trade secrets on the market. The law furthermore makes it possible for companies to intervene in malpractices in the other member states and consequently brings about legal certainty in border-crossing infringements.
THIS IS HOW TO LOOK AFTER THE TRADE SECRETS OF YOUR COMPANY
- Identify, document, (mark down), and classify the trade secrets of your company
- Think over whom to disclose trade secrets to
- Make a non-disclosure agreement with cooperation partners before you disclose trade secrets of your company or submit files including them
- Check the non-disclosure terms and conditions of employment agreements, also taking into account the non-disclosure obligations binding your company, by committing your employees to them
- Check at regular intervals the various agreements of your company from the viewpoint of confidentiality
- Draft instructions concerning trade secrets for your company, train the personnel, and pay attention to their compliance and supervision
- In suspected cases on infringement, intervene immediately