Protecting your ideas and know how – Confidential Information

October 28, 2016, By

Do you pitch ideas and designs as part of a tender or potential investment deal? Does your employee have access to your client lists? Does your manufacturer have detailed information relating to your products or suppliers?

These types of information can have limited or no protection as intellectual property rights, but don’t panic – you may still have rights under the law of confidential information.

There are 3 key elements to consider:

  1. Does the information have the necessary quality of confidence? Broadly speaking this means that the information is not public knowledge or freely available and has some kind of commercial value.
  2. Was the information obtained in a manner which indicates that the information is confidential?This can happen in three ways: (1) under contract (e.g. a non-disclosure agreement); (2) through circumstances where a reasonable person would believe the information is given in confidence; or (3) due to the nature of the relationship between the parties (e.g. an employee or professional advisor).
  3. Has the information been used, without authority, in a way that damages the party that owns it?

If the 3 hurdles above can be overcome, there may be a right of action that could lead to an injunction, damages or both.

Helpful tips to protect your confidential information:

  1. Take steps to prevent your information entering the public domain. For example, encrypt your files, have appropriate physical and digital security measures in place and only share information with individuals that need to see it.
  2. Enter into confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements with each party you share your information with.
  3. Hammer home that the information is confidential at every opportunity. Mark documents CONFIDENTIAL and notify employees that information is confidential when they start, throughout their employment and when they leave. Keep good records of these efforts.
  4. Keep tabs on your information and record its whereabouts. If you have given an employee a confidential document, make sure they return or destroy it as soon as it is no longer needed or definitely when they are no longer working for you.

For more information on confidential information or to arrange a free consultation with expert intellectual property lawyers contact [email protected] or visit our website.

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