When a company does business with a supplier, its own employees, investors, freelancers, and other companies or parties, confidential information and trade secrets are often exchanged or disclosed. This exchange can take place already when the two parties enter into an agreement. However, it is very important for the company to maintain information and confidentiality on the part of the contract partner. Therefore, non-disclosure agreements (NDA) are necessary to ensure the confidentiality of information that should not be made public.
An NDA (also known as a confidentiality agreement) is a legal contract that should be used when confidential information needs to be shared between two parties. It guarantees that a person or organization that has access to confidential information will not disclose it to a third party.
NDAs are simple written agreements between parties and do not require registration or notarization. They are often used to protect confidential information and trade secrets.
The NDA must specify the essential terms:
The NDA creates a legal framework to protect ideas and information from being stolen or passed on to competitors or third parties. Violation of an NDA agreement has many legal consequences, including lawsuits and financial penalties. NDAs provide a certain level of protection for your business, so even accidental breaches will be covered.
There are three main functions of an NDA. Let's take a look at them.
By drawing a line between what information is private and what can be shared, the NDA categorizes information. This allows the parties to operate freely within the boundaries set by the confidentiality agreement;
Signing an NDA creates a legal obligation to keep confidential information confidential. Any leak of such information is a breach of contract;
Because public disclosure of a pending invention can sometimes invalidate patent rights, an NDA can protect the inventor during the development of a new product or concept.
Whether you are looking for investors, hiring new employees, or looking for new partners or collaborators, at some point, sensitive information must be shared with individuals or entities outside of your organization. NDAs ensure that the company moves forward safely in these processes.
When do you need to conclude an NDA? Below are five situations in which a confidentiality agreement is necessary.
When your organization enters into an agreement to sell or license a product or technology, you need to make sure that all data you disclose - technical, financial or other proprietary materials - cannot be transferred to third parties;
Since they have access to sensitive and proprietary information, you need to ensure that your employees cannot share your organization's sensitive data while on the job or after leaving;
during negotiations with a new partner or investor, you need to ensure the protection of information transmitted during these negotiations;
When you bring in a new client, your organization may become the owner of that company's confidential information. The NDA can protect your organization by determining what information cannot be shared to avoid incidental legal liability;
When selling a business, confidential financial and operational information must be shared not only with the company that buys your business, but also with intermediaries and brokers. The NDA ensures data protection.
Confidentiality agreements are also often entered into when providing information to potential investors, entering into contracts with suppliers, and when exploring joint venture opportunities.
In general, non-disclosure agreements fall into two main categories: unilateral and reciprocal. In a unilateral NDA, one party agrees not to disclose confidential information. In a mutual NDA, both parties agree not to share confidential information.
In all other respects, these two types of confidentiality agreements are identical, especially when it comes to enforcement and the consequences of a breach.
An employment contract is a great example of a unilateral NDA. Upon hiring, an employee signs a one-way NDA, pledging not to share information obtained on the job. In contrast, if one company merges with or acquires another company, a mutual NDA ensures that none of the parties involved in the process divulge confidential information.
When drafting a confidentiality agreement, you should answer a few questions that will help determine whether you need a unilateral or mutual agreement:
All NDAs must include these specific elements:
Of course, not all information is protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Public documents or company addresses are not subject to such confidentiality agreements. Courts may also interpret the scope of an NDA in a way that one or more of the participants may not have anticipated in the first place. If the information contained in the NDA is disclosed in some other way - such as in a legal proceeding - then the NDA no longer applies.
In addition, managing multiple NDAs in an organization quickly becomes impossible without a standardized language. When NDAs start to number in the hundreds, manually reviewing, negotiating, and negotiating unique contracts becomes extremely complex and time-consuming. A standard, customizable confidentiality agreement solves this problem, but only if the organization takes the time or consults with experts to create a standard NDA that meets all of its needs.
There are many situations in which you may be asked to sign an NDA, including:
It is quite normal that in these or any other situations where you are given access to confidential information, you are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. When this happens, it's important to know what to look for in an NDA.
Expect to see the parts of the NDA listed above, including definitions of parties, definitions, obligations, scope, timing, return of information, exceptions, and remedies. There may also be mutual non-disclosure or non-sale clauses, as well as jurisdiction for disputes.
Before signing an NDA, take the time to read it carefully and make sure you understand the contract. If you find broad or vague language that unnecessarily restricts you, it may make sense to refuse to sign until this is corrected. Specific examples would be statements that you may not disclose information that is public knowledge, knowledge that you already possess, or information obtained from a third party.