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Know-how, trade secrets and confidential information are all terms used to describe proprietary information or materials used in the trade which provide a competitive advantage. The information may be held in documents, engendered in people in the form of skills or may be materials. In order for the know-how or materials to retain their value they must remain confidential to the company and release must be restricted. The first step to protecting know-how is to be able to identify it. Wherever possible, information, procedures, ideas, plans, etc., should be documented. Undocumented information is impossible to manage and it is much harder to ensure employees understand what is, and what is not, confidential if information is passed freely around the company. Essential documents should be marked 'confidential; not to be copied', preferably numbered and tracked if circulated, and access restricted to ensure employees understand the importance and the fact that the documents contain information their employer considers to be valuable. All drafts should be destroyed.
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