4. Legal Guidelines

Proprietary Information

Proprietary information is defined broadly as any information that gives your company a competitive advantage or could be damaging to your company if the disclosure of this information is out of your company's control.

Proprietary information includes:

Protecting Proprietary Documents

Proprietary documents need to be protected by appropriate labeling from the time they are created until they are released or are safely destroyed. This section lists and explains three commonly used proprietary labels, which often appear in boldface type.

    Use this label for general information, such as job listings that are distributed throughout the company.

    Use this label for all pre-release product documentation and information. This covers all information that is distributed to product teams (manuals, release notes, research papers, or specifications).

    Use this label for highly sensitive information, where numbered copies are made and carefully controlled.

In general, most documentation should have the label "Company Name Proprietary/Confidential: Need-to-Know." Be sure to remove the proprietary label before producing the final production version of the documentation.

If you have any questions about proprietary labels, send them to counsel in your legal department.

Protecting Electronic Communication

Email has become the quickest way to communicate in the computer industry. However, email writers must be as careful to protect proprietary information in these messages as they are to protect hard-copy documents.

Any email containing proprietary information should include an appropriate label in the email header, such as:

Confirm the names on an email alias before sending information to a large audience, and create smaller aliases for particularly sensitive topics. Don't distribute messages beyond the alias or to addresses outside of your company.