Many businesses have a whole raft of visitors on-site at any time including suppliers, technicians, people on factory tours, customers, and the like. While most visitors are trustworthy, by not taking proactive steps to protect your confidential information you may risk losing your rights.
The best way to reduce the risk of losing your rights is not to disclose confidential information in the first place. After all, a secret is not a secret if everyone knows it!
While this is not always practical in the day-to-day operation of a business, by taking some simple steps you can protect your confidential information.
Restrict Access to Confidential Information
Wherever possible, you should control what information visitors have access to and restrict visitor access to sensitive areas (such as computer systems, areas containing trade secrets, know-how and confidential information, or locations where research, development and testing may be underway).
If your visitor has a need to access a sensitive area, consider limiting their access to nearby areas which may contain trade secrets that they don’t need to access. Another option is to relocate sensitive equipment, or if the equipment can’t be relocated, cover it with a screen or a tarpaulin.
Some businesses provide visitors with tours of their facilities to help understand the visitor understand the business better. This route should not only be informative and safe, but it should avoid sensitive areas where your visitor may come into contact with confidential information.
In addition, you should ensure confidential information is not left on desks or whiteboards where a visitor might see it as they are walking through your office.
Sign Confidentiality Agreements
Visitor registers which are frequently used as part of an emergency evacuation plan for a business can also help protect your intellectual property.
Incorporating a confidentiality statement into your visitor register enables you to put your visitor on notice that they may come into contact with confidential information whilst on site and that you take protection of your intellectual property seriously. In addition, by signing the register, your visitor agrees they will not disclose any confidential information they become aware of.
However, sometimes visitors need to have access to sensitive areas. In this instance, you should always put a confidentiality agreement in place with your visitor before they visit your business. The confidentiality agreement enables you to control what can be done with the information that has been shared or disclosed.
Visitors should always be accompanied by their host, and employees should be trained to challenge unauthorised people in sensitive or restricted areas.
In some businesses, it may be appropriate to provide visitors with a coloured safety helmet, a visitor badge, or a coloured laboratory coat which can help to visually distinguish them from an employee.
Review Your Intellectual Property Strategy
You should regularly review the intellectual property in your business and especially any areas of the business which you believe are giving you a commercial advantage over your competitors. This will help you determine what intellectual property exists and enables you to devise a strategy to protect that intellectual property that is relevant to your business objectives.
In summary, IP protection and in particular, protection of confidential information, know-how and trade secrets is important to all businesses. By controlling visitor exposure to your confidential information, you can more effectively protect your intellectual property.
The team at Kings Patent & Trade Marks Attorneys can help you identify your intellectual property and devise the appropriate IP strategy for your business.