You’ve spent many years gathering contacts and doing research to make your business the best it can be. It didn’t happen overnight. Trade secrets, pricing formulas, customer lists and business plans are valuable assets. Here are five ways to protect your intellectual property, from

Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks. These legal filings document your ownership and create certain legal protections to help you safeguard your property. Ask your attorney to assist you with the applications.

Confidentiality or Nondisclosure Agreements. These documents commit a party to keeping specified data and information confidential and out of the hands of unintended parties. Always consult an attorney on these agreements.

Employment Agreements. These stipulate that all company assets are proprietary and that unauthorized disclosure of confidential information is prohibited.

Computer Passwords, Safes and Locked File Cabinets. When used properly, these safeguards can restrict access to sensitive information.

Data Backup. Back up everything that’s important. Back up digital documents on a server that’s in a different location or on a zip disk or CD that’s kept off-site. Also keep off-site copies of important physical documents.