How to Protect Ag Trade Secrets

How to Protect Ag Trade Secrets

Non-Disclosure Agreements in Agricultural Business

Here in Indiana, we take agriculture pretty seriously. Whether it’s a large-scale farming organization like Tom Farms or a small, family-owned pig farm deep in the plains, agribusiness is simply part of our DNA as Hoosiers.

Though non-disclosure agreements are rarely used, there is a significant need to protect the intellectual property of farmers and agribusiness operators in Central Indiana. With so many farms growing the same crops and raising the same animals, it’s understandable that these professionals have honed their craft over generations of Indiana agriculture. These are more than just tradition; these ideas are essential to the long-term success of these farms.

Let’s look at how NDAs in agriculture can protect agribusiness in Indiana and what they cover legally.

NDAs for Indiana Agriculture

Food products in general cannot be trademarked or copyrighted unless they qualify for patent protection. The intellectual property owned by agribusinesses falls into the category of “trade secrets.” The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines this as information which either

  1. Derives its value from being unknown to the public
  2. Is subjected to “reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.”

While trade secrets are essential, it’s vital to understand that they are not confidential. To protect these secrets, agricultural companies need agreements that guarantee privacy. Though NDAs are perhaps the most well-known, these agreements can take one of many forms:

  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Non-circumvention agreements
  • Non-solicitation agreements
  • Non-competition agreements

These documents are drafted by the agricultural companies or their legal representatives and can cover any area of their farming operations. Any time confidential information is shared, an NDA or other agreement should be used. This generally comes up in one of two situations:

  • When an agricultural business works with a third-party entity, such as seed distributors, buyers for crops and livestock, or marketing consultants
  • For employees and contractors working directly on farms

When farmers and ag companies use NDAs, the exact terms can be laid out in the contract itself, including what’s called perpetual confidentiality, meaning that anyone signing such a document is legally bound not to share, alter, or otherwise use anything learned during a partnership.

Protect Indiana Agribusiness Intellectual Property with NDAs

Though farming may seem like a fairly straightforward, cut-and-dry process, there are so many small variations throughout the industry. These might come from watering techniques, feed formulas, crop patterns, seed varieties, products, or unique equipment used on the farm itself. Regardless of the trade secrets, these can easily mutate over time and be used by other companies or entities to profit.

Securing NDA agreements is the only way to ensure that agribusiness secrets and intellectual property is secure. To draft these documents, you need a legal team that is ready to protect what matters most. The attorneys at Bennett, Boehning, and Clary have the experience to safeguard your business and the trade secrets it depends on. Reach out to Cecelia Neihouser Harper at 765-742-9066 if you need an advocate and someone to fight for you.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.

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