How to manage confidential information

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(Music plays)

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office presents

How to manage confidential information

(We see Catherine Geci getting ready to be interviewed.)

Catherine Geci, Technology Partnership Officer at the University of Ottawa

(The interview begins with light music in the background.)

So confidential information is basically any type of information that's crucial to a business. It's basically the information that affects the company's competitive advantage. Confidential information can basically be technical information and or business information.

In terms of technical information, confidential information can be for example information that's related to research that is found in laboratory notebooks, in research notebooks that is incorporated into prototypes, takes the form of formulas and algorithms. It can also be found in source code, source code that obviously is not open source, and it can also be in the ways or methods that are used to produce a product.

Confidential business information is essentially information that can be incorporated in methods for sale, methods for distribution; client lists for example, perspective clients and their profiles, and advertising strategies.

A company can put in place different measures to protect it's confidential information.

For example, if the information is technical in nature it can be protected via patent or via trade secret.

If the information is business in nature, it can be protected via trade secret. Another method of course is to let the people who have access to the confidential information know that the information is confidential and actually limit the access and the people who have knowledge of this confidential information.

You can also have confidential information or confidentiality obligations as part of an employment contract with your employees and another method of course is having confidentiality or non disclosure agreement with the party that you're going to share the confidential information with.

So a non-disclosure agreement or an NDA is essentially a document, which embodies the intention of both parties to communicate confidential information to each other.

The NDA can essentially be a one-way NDA where one party is expressing confidential information to another, or it can be a two way NDA where both parties are exchanging confidential information.

So there are two items in an NDA that are actually quite important to take note of, one of them is the term of the agreement, the term can be for example one year, three years, or five years but it's important to understand how long your obligation of confidentiality will last and it's also important to understand what the consequences are when the agreement comes to close. So in other words when the agreement expires what the obligations are in terms of maybe destroying confidential information or returning it to the party that gave it to you.

It's important also to realize that when you're disclosing confidential information to another party, that if the information is made publicly available, then the confidential information is obviously not confidential anymore, and it's very difficult to reassign confidentiality to information that is available to the public, basically once the information is out there, it's out there. Essentially what it means is that you have to be able to trust the partner that you'll be working with.

So protecting confidential information is very important to your business because it ensures it's viability and ultimately it's success.

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For more information

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In this video, you will learn more about what should be treated as confidential and how it should be managed. Catherine Geci, Technology Partnership Officer at the University of Ottawa, works closely with researchers and student entrepreneurs and knows how important it is to manage confidential information.

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