The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many state and local governments to issue orders directing workers to shelter in place and direct businesses to allow workers to work from home. Even when not ordered to do so, companies throughout the United States have quickly adapted to allow their employees to work at home. These accommodations often include allowing employees remote access to a broad range of company information. They also may put company trade secrets and other highly confidential information at risk. As employers adjust their policies to maintain business operations and enable workers to work from home, they should also take steps to mitigate the risks of trade secret misappropriation.

Federal and state trade secret statutes, and state common law, almost universally require that a trade secret owner take reasonable measures under the circumstances to protect a trade secret. Another quality of a trade secret is that the information is not generally known or easily discoverable through proper means by the public. Read together, courts have interpreted these statutes to require a company to exercise continued diligence in applying protective measures to keep information as a trade secret. Similarly, contractual provisions protecting company confidential information many times extend only to information that otherwise does not become publicly available. Again, to protect confidential information, and like a trade secret, the owner of the information should take continuing steps to keep the information confidential.

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