Small businesses sometimes have a difficult time in their local markets, especially when larger competitors come in and try to take the market share.
Big businesses often have the opportunity to reach larger populations and may even have the power to take ideas from smaller businesses and fight legal challenges. That said, your business has a right to fight back if another business has stolen your ideas or is doing something so similar to you that it’s confusing your customers.
Watching for the misappropriation of trade secrets
One big risk that small business owners need to watch out for is the misappropriation of trade secrets. Essentially, you have to be cautious about someone stealing your trade secrets and then using them for monetary gain.
Here’s an example. Imagine that you’ve been running a hamburger business for the last several years. You use a special recipe that adds a sweet and spicy taste to your burger, and you have a unique sauce that you add on top. No one that you’re aware of has ever used anything like it. You sell the sauce individually without the secret ingredients listed, and you have unique labeling to make it stand out as your own.
Now imagine hiring someone for a few days before they leave. They had access to your restaurant, so, in theory, they might have been able to get into your recipe book in the back office. A few months later, you see a big box store selling a sauce just like yours. It tastes identical. The packaging is even similar. A customer brings it to your attention, because they thought you got your sauce in stores.
Coincidences happen, but when you found out that the worker who was with your company for only a few days works at the larger store, you think it’s unlikely that the store came up with the recipe or design on its own.
The reality is that someone else is mimicking what you’ve been selling for years.
This kind of problem is not unique, and it’s something you need to stop immediately. It is unfair for another business to steal from you. If they do, you may be able to sue them for misappropriating your trade secrets and costing you money.