By Bill Donahue, Law360, New York (July 09, 2014, 7:09 PM ET)
Companies are getting smarter about protecting their trade secrets alongside the rest of their intellectual property, but they also need to be equally wary about accidentally stealing somebody else’s. With high-profile criminal cases, dramatic overseas accusations and the talk of new federal legislation, companies are more aware than ever of the importance of locking down the kind of highly valuable secrets customer lists, unpatented processes, source code that drive their business. But that’s only half of the equation. Without proper precautions, a marquee lateral hire or a failed attempt at a joint venture can leave companies with a wholly different risk: a product tainted by a competitor’s trade secrets, negative press and costly litigation. Though perhaps not as bad as losing your own secrets, no company wants to end up on the wrong end of a misappropriation suit. Over the last three to five years, trade secret protections have become a more important body of law, and companies are getting more focused on protection of their own information, but now we’re counseling that clients also get equally focused on making sure that their own products are not tainted, said Mark A. Klapow, a partner at Crowell & Moring LLP. These big trade secrets cases that involve competitors and key products are very expensive to litigate, Klaplow said. Just as in a large patent case, there can be tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Good written policies and other standard measures are a must, but here are a few quick tips ..