We hope you have found our video chat series helpful and informative. We are continuing this series of quick and bite-sized video chats, where our employment partners team up with practitioners in various areas of law to discuss the most pressing issues for employers navigating the return to work. Each 15-minute Q&A session offers targeted
We are excited to invite you to the webinar, “Filling Data Protection Gaps in the New Working Environment,” scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, 2020, from noon – 1:00 pm ET.
Click here to view the invitation and register. We look forward to your participation.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched across the globe, companies shifted to remote working environments and many reduced staff, all without much of an opportunity to prepare. The past two months have presented a serious threat to data security, including the most vulnerable financial data, personal data of employees and customers, and trade secrets. These risks cut across all sectors — financial services, industrial manufacturers, health care, and professional services. Recent experience confirms that an effective information security strategy should target these most-common threats: phishing, data sprawl, and employee mobility/redundancies.
How to Protect Your Company
Take a holistic approach to threat mitigation and data loss prevention in the face of increased risks. Such an approach must account for data protection, intellectual property (including trade secrets), and employment law. Here are the action items in these uncertain times to help address and mitigate the legal and regulatory risks:
The way we work has been permanently transformed by the rapid deployment of a largely remote workforce during the shelter-in-place. Threats to companies’ most valuable confidential data have not merely increased — an entirely new set of legal and technical risks to trade secrets have emerged over the last 90 days that are fundamentally different…
Companies are permitting (or requiring) employees to work remotely right now in response to COVID-19 concerns. This decision, calculated to minimize certain risks, presents new and wide-ranging concerns for the protection of trade secrets. In this “temporary” working remotely environment, employees will have considerable opportunity to access, download, or store sensitive information from company systems and databases. Have you vetted these circumstances or otherwise addressed their use? Think – home printers? Cell phones? Tablets? Personal email accounts? Working in public places such as libraries and coffee shops? Companies may also be inclined to relax otherwise well thought out document management rules or allow for workarounds from the usual security measures in the interest of business continuity. In such an environment, employees may make assumptions that they have wider latitude to email, copy, send, print, or download information, given the circumstances. Compounding these insider risks are a series of unknowns, such as whether your employees’ home networks have security anywhere near on par with in-office network security that could allow outsiders to intrude or access data.
Trade secret litigation has grown exponentially in the United States, in part due to the passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. § 1836, et seq.) in 2016, and in response to the incredible value embodied in companies’ customer lists, knowhow, processes, formulas, business strategies, salary structures, and numerous other forms of intellectual property. If information is valuable, kept secret, and derives value from its secrecy, then it can be a protectable trade secret — as long as the company puts in place reasonable measures to maintain the secrecy.
Whether your company has a sophisticated trade secret protection plan in place or not, the current work environment will stress policies and procedures. Employees pose the biggest threat to securing a company’s valuable IP, and several remote-working concerns raise long-term policy questions to be addressed over time. But, the action items can’t all wait until a calmer moment. Consider the following immediate steps as your company reacts to recent events.
1. Communicate current obligations and requirements in the remote working environment
If you have a robust work-from-home policy, review it now with a specific focus on maintaining your company’s most valuable secrets. If you do not have such a policy, implement something immediately, even if it is temporary. Set clear expectations on what information the business considers to be confidential or trade secrets and what particular steps employees are required to follow when using or accessing that information. Not only does it make business sense to keep employees on notice of company policies and procedures, but federal case law under the DTSA has made clear that employees can only be held to trade secret obligations where they are specific and clear, such that employees are “on notice” of the trade secrets.…
Continue Reading Keep Trade Secret Protections Top Of Mind While You Deploy Remote Working
In our latest podcast, Baker McKenzie partner Carole Spink introduces Lois Rodriguez from Madrid to talk about employment laws in Spain and give an overview of what changed in 2017 as well as what we can expect for the year ahead.
- Continued debate on the treatment of permanent versus temporary workers, including the
President Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act into law on Wednesday, adding another layer of protection for companies’ trade secrets and garnering near-unanimous support in Congress. So what’s in this legislation that managed to bring the parties together, and more importantly, what does it mean for employers? Here are 5 key takeaways from the DTSA.…
Continue Reading The Defend Trade Secrets Act – Making a Federal Case of It