A few years ago, our firm defended a client against a claim of patent infringement. As it turned out, our client had disclosed its confidential information to a potential business partner during a pre-collaboration exploratory meeting, which the potential business partner then used to obtain the patent they were asserting. Luckily, our client had insisted on putting a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place before the meeting and had clearly marked the information as being confidential. Because of these precautionary measures, not only were we able to invalidate the patent, but we also won a breach of contract counterclaim based on the unauthorized use of the confidential information.
If you are exploring the possibility of collaborating with another company, you are likely going to exchange confidential information with that company so you can evaluate what they have to offer and they can evaluate what you have to offer. Although necessary, these types of exploratory meetings can be a trap for the unwary. Below are a few measures that should be taken to protect your confidential information before, during, and after any such meetings.