Thought this may appear to be legal advice, I am simply expressing my opinion, as protected freedom
of speech. If you feel you need clarification, I strongly advise you to share the entire text with an
Helping people is an immeasurable source of joy and purpose. Unfortunately, some selfish people can
ruin things. Taking the time to understand the law can be a tool to reward the good, while deterring the
As professionals, we need to discuss problems with clients and give them enough information to
convince them that we are likely to be successful in resolving the problem at an acceptable cost.
Most of us have been taught that a valid and enforceable contract requires an offer, an acceptance, and
the exchange of valuable consideration.
Both to protect ourselves and our clients, it is wise to have a Mutual Confidentiality Agreement. In
meetings, a person is designated to take notes and a list of items, identified and agreed to be trade
secrets of either the client or the consultant.
Legally, the ideas of each remain their exclusive property, until the trade secrets of the consultant are
exchanged for the consulting fees paid by the client. The client may, at some point in the future,
choose to attempt to patent some to the trade secrets disclosed in meetings. Evidence that confidential
information was clear identified as such can be quite useful should defense of the patent become an
So in the earliest meeting offer to sign the client's confidentiality agreement, as long as it is mutual.
Once the agreement is signed, the client can share all of the details, including any trade secret levels of
knowledge. The consultant can freely explain a plan of action, and the data that adds credibility to that
plan. The client is legally barred from using this free information, unless a price can be agreed to and
Particularly in dealing with startup companies, there is a kind of disrespect for the traditions and
customs of business. Consultants are milked of information, which may even be sent offshore, where
lower cost people can finish the details. Investors will not consider any funding of companies that have
pending litigation related to trade secrets or patents. Theft of trade secrets is a crime, beside presenting
an opportunity for quite expensive and profitable litigation. You can look the CEO straight in the eye
and inform him that you will proceed with the filing of criminal charges if he continues to misuse your
trade secrets that he has failed to negotiate a price for.
As Carl has advised us on many occasions, providing weekly reports to the client is both the mark of a
professional and legally very wise. Meeting minutes can be attached to weekly reports. Keep a copy.
For business and technical advice from the author and thousands of good associates and suppliers, feel
free to email firstname.lastname@example.org