Gift Focus - Jan/Feb 2020 (Issue 117)

186 Top secret Dids McDonald, CEO of Anti Copying in Design (ACID), looks into the importance of keeping your trade secrets close to your chest With market conditions as tough as they can be following the last three years of uncertainty and Brexit gloom, there is no better time to ensure that your competitors don’t steal a march by understanding what makes your company survive and tick and maintain that competitive advantage. Taking a few small practical steps can be a move towards risk management, and no more so when sharing new ideas on public platforms and on social media. WHY ARE TRADE SECRETS BECOMING IMPORTANT? Most companies, especially SMEs, innovate to enhance their performance to deliver a refined service or product, whether by evolving and improving manufacturing processes, systems, processes, formula or, quite simply, creating an invaluable database of relevant information about buyers, competitors, suppliers et al . So, a trade secret or secrets is any information that is unique and valuable to you and your business but which isn’t necessarily known outside your sphere. Trade secrets are particularly important for micro companies who don’t necessarily have the budget for a large portfolio of intellectual property rights. Guarding trade secrets fiercely enough is not something that many lone, micro and SME companies do. TRADE SECRETS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY First, identify what are the aspects (or secrets) about your enterprise that gives you the competitive edge? Can you identify confidential business information that would compromise your position in the market if everyone knew? If so, then you probably have trade secrets that encompass manufacturing or industrial and commercial secrets. What’s more important is that their unauthorized use by other than the holder is regarded as unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret. According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, “The subject matter of trade secrets is usually defined in broad terms and includes sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, and advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. While a final determination of what information constitutes a trade secret will depend on the circumstances of each individual case, clearly unfair practices in respect of secret information include industrial or commercial espionage, breach of contract and breach of confidence.” A recent directive on trade secrets by the European Commission