Submitted by: Thomas A. Muccifori, Partner, Chair of Trade Secret Protection & Non-Compete Practice, Archer & Greiner P.C.

Imagine this: you spend years building a company, developing your staff and carefully cultivating client relationships, only to have one of your top employees uproot and start a competing business – with knowledge gleaned on the job and clients that were yours.

It does happen – and more often than you think.

Today’s economy runs on information, so don’t get squashed by not adequately protecting intellectual property, such as client lists. Protect the fruit of seeds you so arduously sowed and nurtured.

Employee departures present one of the greatest risks of harm to a company’s legitimate business interests. With increasing employee mobility comes an increased risk of misappropriation.

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Have key employees signed non-compete agreements? Is your sales force bound by a non-solicitation covenant?
  • Have employees signed agreements requiring them to keep the company’s proprietary information confidential? This can be included in a non-compete agreement, or as a stand-alone non-disclosure pact.
  • Have you implemented a formal trade-secrets policy?  Has each employee acknowledge in writing that they received and reviewed the policy?
  • Do your employees know about their roles and responsibilities regarding the company’s trade secrets and confidential information?
  • Are you conducting exit interviews with departing employees whenever possible?  This is a good opportunity to learn where the employee will be working next, which could alert you to the risk of confidential information being disclosed if the departing employee will be working for a competitor or star