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Protecting Confidential Information

You may have a valuable brand or your business may depend upon a particular product or process. You may have already taken steps to protect these products but have you also considered your confidential information?

The value of confidential information cannot be understated. Consider, for example, the formulation for Coca Cola or Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe for his fried chicken.

There is arguably a case to state that such information should rarely be disclosed to anybody outside of a very tight group of people in order to maintain absolute privacy.

The rationale here being that the trade secret is so valuable that it is not worth running the risk of the information being made public

However in commercial life disclosure to third parties may become necessary to take advantage of the expertise and resources of others

If you have a new and exciting product or process you may suddenly find yourself the centre of attention with people keen to hear all about your news

You should proceed with caution. Some may have entirely honourable intentions but others may be on a mission to hijack your idea and develop it for their own ends

It is easy to be carried along with this wave of interest and rush enthusiastically into discussions with third parties. However in doing so you may inadvertently say too much and lose all potential and future value in your new concept. Please be aware that any prior disclosure of information may prevent you from applying for a patent and may deny you the chance to enjoy a 20 year state-granted monopoly in your market sector

There may of course be some compelling reasons why you may want to speak to certain third parties. They may be able to help you with taking the product to the next stage by providing funding or assisting you to develop a working prototype

Whoever you plan to speak to, you should ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement before you exchange any information either by email or face-to-face. Do not sign any document presented to you. Insist on your own document being signed and if anybody refuses then you should politely decline to engage with them

Finally also be aware that certain parties may sign up to obligations of confidentiality and then call your bluff by exploiting your idea in the knowledge that you do not have the resources to pursue them. It is impossible to plan for such circumstances but thankfully such instances are become less common.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help to protect your confidential information please contact one of the Corporate team at Fletcher Day.


The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.