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How do I protect my trade secret, know-how or confidential information?

The table below offers some practical steps to help you protect your intellectual property.

Practical step Description
Never disclose without first having a confidentiality agreement.

A confidentiality agreement is an agreement between you and the person you intend to disclose your confidential information to. Under this agreement that person promises to maintain your confidential information as secret, and not use it for purposes other than those that you have allowed.
(Refer to Confidentiality agreements.)

Implement a 'need to know' policy. Not all employees need to know all your confidential information to enable them to do their job. Some employees might need to know some types of information (e.g. financial information) but not other types of information (e.g. patentable inventions).
Keep your IP secure.

Keep your intellectual property and confidential information in secure locations, and in a secure manner.

Consider whether some things should be confined to a certain area, such as a lab or other working area.

Have a visitor policy for your business.

Have a register of visitors to your premises.

Always have your visitors accompanied so that they do not inadvertently stumble into restricted areas.

If visitors will be visiting restricted areas where your trade secrets, know-how or confidential information may be observed or deduced, have them sign a confidentiality agreement before the visit.
(Refer to Confidentiality agreements.)

Restrict access.

Restrict access to premises so that only employees who need access to a specific location are able to enter that location.

This applies not just to employees, but to visitors to your premises as well.

Restrict computer access. Restrict access to parts of your computer systems so that only those employees who need to access certain types of information are able to do so, to the exclusion of others.