Non-disclosure agreement for business

February 2, 2023

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is an important legal document for businesses and business owners in the UK.

It helps protect confidential information shared between parties, ensuring that it isn't used or disclosed without permission. With a properly drafted NDA, you can protect your valuable intellectual property from competitors or other third parties who may benefit from its disclosure.

In this article we will explore the different types of NDAs available, their benefits and how to create an NDA that works best for you. We'll also look at potential pitfalls to avoid when entering into an NDA, so you can ensure maximum protection of your confidential information.

What is a non-disclosure agreement?

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legal contract between two or more parties, typically used when confidential information needs to be shared during business dealings. The agreement sets out the information that must remain outside of the public domain and outlines any penalties for violating the agreement.

NDA's are important for protecting intellectual property and safeguarding trade secrets as well as preventing industrial espionage. They can also cover financial data, proprietary technology, personal information and other sensitive details. Through these agreements, both parties have assurance that their confidential information is protected from being revealed or misused by the other party.

What types of sensitive information are covered in an NDA?

NDAs can cover anything that is considered commercially sensitive information including;

  • financial information
  • customer information
  • accounting information
  • sensitive information
  • trade secrets.

Benefits of using a Non-Disclosure Agreement

Non-disclosure agreements are important for businesses of all sizes. By using an NDA, a business can protect confidential information from unauthorised use and maintain a competitive edge.

The agreement is also beneficial in preventing industrial espionage and other forms of theft, as it serves as a deterrent to those seeking to gain access to the confidential information.

NDAs can be used to prevent current and former employees from sharing or using trade secrets or proprietary information for competitive advantage. This ensures that a business’ intellectual property remains secure and allows them to benefit fully from their discoveries or inventions.

In addition, NDAs can help create trust between two parties entering into an agreement by ensuring that each party respects the confidentiality of the other party’s confidential information.

As such, NDAs are often used in collaboration agreements to ensure each business partner has confidence that they will not be taken advantage of by the other party.

NDAs may be necessary in certain industries where regulated data needs to stay secure between businesses. For example, healthcare providers must abide by strict regulations when it comes to sharing patient data with other providers or third-party vendors.

An NDA can help ensure compliance with such regulations and provide additional assurance for both parties involved in the agreement.

Types of non disclosure agreements

There are several different types of non-disclosure agreements that businesses may use depending on the specific needs of the situation.

Unilateral NDA

This is an agreement between two parties where only one of the parties discloses confidential information.

In this case, the receiving party has a duty to maintain secrecy and protect sensitive data from unauthorised use or disclosure.

Mutual NDA

A mutual NDA involves both parties disclosing information.

This type of agreement may be used when two companies wish to work together or form a partnership and would be sharing confidential information. Both parties have agreed upon duties to protect each other's secrets and confidential information throughout the duration of the relationship.

Confidentiality agreement

Confidentiality agreements apply when a disclosing party wishes to disclose information with another party without requiring any exchange in return. The receiving party agrees not to reveal or make public any portion of the disclosed information and usually has limited rights related to using or sharing it with others. Confidentiality agreements ensure a confidential relationship is created between the two parties.

One-way and two-way NDAs

A one-way NDA is an agreement between two parties in which only one party discloses confidential information. The receiving party has a duty to keep the information protected from the public domain.

A two-way NDA involves both parties disclosing information, such as when two companies wish to work together or form a partnership and need to disclose confidential information or proprietary information. Both parties agree to certain duties that will help protect each other’s secrets and keep confidential information secure throughout the duration of the relationship.

Key Clauses in an NDA

Each non disclosure agreement is different, depending on the circumstances. You should seek independent legal advice to ensure that your business interests are protected and to get help determining which information should be considered confidential.

Here are some common things to include in a non disclosure agreement:

  1. An exact description of the confidential information that is being protected.
  2. A definition of what qualifies as a breach of the agreement and any consequences for breaching the agreement.
  3. The duration of the non disclosure agreement - i.e. when it will start and when it will end.
  4. A designated recipient - who is allowed to receive and use the shared confidential information?
  5. Exclusions to the NDA - which specific types of information are not covered by this agreement?
  6. Non-compete clause - what restrictions, if any, do both parties agree upon regarding competitive activities during or after the term of the agreement
  7. Choice of law and jurisdiction clause – which legal system and court has jurisdiction in case a dispute needs to be resolved or legal action taken?
  8. Signatures – both parties must sign off on the agreement in order for it to be valid and legally binding.

Drafting and negotiating a NDA requires careful consideration of the information being transferred and an understanding of the legal implications of the agreement. It is important to define the confidential information that is being shared and establish conditions under which such information may be used.

Potential pitfalls of a non disclosure agreement

It's a good idea to consider whether disclosing confidential information is necessary in the first place.

When creating non disclosure agreements, there are some potential pitfalls to avoid.

Ensure that both parties have agreed upon and understand the scope of the confidential information covered by the agreement. Carefully consider any exclusions from the agreement as this can affect its enforceability. Lastly, ensure that both parties agree to a suitable choice of law and jurisdiction for resolving disputes that may arise in the future.

Are NDAs enforceable?

This depends on how well the non disclosure agreement has been drafted, as well as the scope of the agreement and jurisdiction.

For example, when an employer implements an NDA with their employees, the employer gets the protection of confidential information while the employee agrees to continued at-will employment as their benefit. It is important to ensure that NDAs are properly drafted and executed in order for them to be enforceable under the law.

An unenforceable NDA

There are some instances where the agreement may be deemed unenforceable:

  • If the NDA's terms are too far-reaching and excessive, a court is more likely to find fault with it - particularly if there are no definite boundaries in place regarding duration or scope.
  • If the information is not kept confidential, it will be more difficult for the company to demand that an employee or other party adhere to a non-disclosure agreement: if facts are already disclosed and well known, courts would struggle to honour such agreements.
  • This agreement is asking the employee to perpetrate an illicit act: i.e., requesting that they keep silent about a matter for which they are legally obligated to report.
To create your own non disclosure agreement or get help reviewing agreements, contact us here.