Trade Secret Asset Management 2016

Strategic Security

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Trade Secret Asset Management 2016

Trade Secret Asset Management 2016: A Guide to Information Asset Management Including the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016. By R. Mark Halligan and Richard F. Weyand. Weyand Associates, Inc.; available from; 270 pages; $19.95.

While this book is an excellent guide for the decision maker with responsibility for protecting intellectual property using trade secret provisions, that mission should not be considered a do-it-yourself endeavor. The services of security professionals in both traditional security and information assurance arenas are necessary to adequately translate the concepts and principles discussed in the book into actionable protection measures. Coordination with an attorney knowledgeable in trade secret law would also be prudent. The authors acknowledge they are not discussing "specific methods of information security," because "the recommendations would be obsolete before this book is even published." 

Defining the two goals of trade secret security measures—prevention of information loss and a favorable result in the event of trade secret litigation—the authors contend that the latter goal is typically where organizations fail. They go on to discuss the establishment of the burden of confidentiality, valuation of intellectual assets or trade secrets, and lifecycle management.

Even if security around trade secrets is highly effective, managers must also be vigilant to ensure that they are not liable for the inappropriate actions of employees, which could result in high litigation costs. Special attention needs to be paid regarding the hiring of new employees, especially from direct competitors. Compartmentalization and documentation of specific projects or information accessed and shared with an individual employee could be critical in defending against unlawful appropriation of a competitor's information. Further, it is the employee's responsibility to bring questionable or inappropriate situations or assignments to the attention of the new employer.

Many organizations are careless with the information they publicly release, allowing it to be collected, analyzed, and possibly exploited by those practicing competitive intelligence techniques. However, competitive intelligence practitioners may correctly argue the difference between lawful analysis and criminal theft of trade secrets.

Overall, the book's visual presentation is professional with quality materials and clear typeset. There is a table of contents by topic, but the book lacks an index. There are no footnotes, references, or a bibliography. Four primary sections are further divided into 16 chapters, each beginning with an executive summary and ending with a summation. Five appendices provide applicable laws, important cases, a checklist of materials that could be potential trade secrets, and sample formats for a nondisclosure agreement and employee exit interview. 

This book is recommended for business managers responsible for intellectual property protection, as well as security professionals desiring a roadmap for this critical area of asset protection.  The book could also be used as a primary or supplemental textbook in college courses focusing on the prevention of loss of intellectual property and security management considerations.

Reviewer: Paul D. Barnard, CPP, CISM (Certified Information Security Manager), SFPC (Security Fundamentals Professional Certification), is an adjunct professor in loss prevention and security management programs. He has been a member of ASIS International since 1975. The opinion expressed is solely that of the reviewer, and does not imply a view of any organization.