All eyes will be on Barbie versus the Bratz dolls when Mattel v MGA begins a new, three-to-four month federal courtroom battle in Santa Ana, Calif.
Mattel alleges that some of their employees were hired by MGA and encouraged to download Mattel documents before leaving their position to go to the competitor. Mattel also claims that several of their employees who were wooed by MGA helped start MGA’s Mexico division using safeguarded Mattel information and expertise.
Protecting a business’ trade secrets is essential no matter how big or small the company may be. Successful companies have proprietary techniques and information that oftentimes their competitors do not have. Trade secrets include business and marketing plans, pricing and customer lists, and research and development. Every business should have a plan to protect their trade secrets from theft or inappropriate disclosure, otherwise a business can compromise its long-term success and profits.
Business lawyers can help create confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements for employees, and any individual, investor or vendor that might deal with a business’ proprietary information should be required to sign them. It is also crucial to have rules for limiting access to proprietary information and documents. Make sure only those employees who must receive certain information have access to it, and secure these documents in locked file cabinets and/or password-protected online files, and mark them as confidential. Limiting photocopying and shredding documents after use can also help. And for visitors to a corporate headquarters, restrict their ability to bring in video cameras and recording devices, even if it means restricting them bringing in cell phones that have all these recording capabilities.
Businesses should also be wary when an employee quits his or her job. Supervision during an employee departures can ensure they are not removing proprietary info, and all passwords should be changed so they cannot log in at a later date to access high-level documents.
A good business attorney will create very specific nondisclosure agreements, ensure inventions and products stay the ownership of the company and protect the rights of the company without infringing on the rights of the employee. Businesses that are proactive will help prevent trade secrets from falling into the competitor’s hands.