07 March 2012

Putting the Djinn back in the bottle

Is an NDA worthwhile?

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs, also confidentiality agreements or secrecy agreements) are used in a number of commercial contexts, from deal negotiations to technology sharing. But are they worth the paper they are written on? It is sometimes said that the cost of enforcement makes them useless, at least to small businesses.

There are benefits in having an NDA even if you are not likely to sue on it. Foremost is deterrence, and making the other party more aware of the need to respect confidentiality. The biggest downside, in my view, is not cost but evidence, as it's very difficult to prove a breach and even harder to show loss justifying substantial damages. Injunctions aren't much good if the information has already been disclosed (though they can restrain other abuses). I often advise clients not to disclose their "crown jewels" information even if they have an NDA in place.
I drafted one for a client only yesterday, though.


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