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What Is a Confidential Disclosure Agreement?
A confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) is a legal agreement between a minimum of two parties protecting proprietary information.
A confidential disclosure agreement protects a company’s project from being shared publicly. CDAs are most commonly used in companies and academic institutions that conduct clinical research.
Here is an article where you can learn more about confidential disclosure agreements.
What’s Included in a Confidential Disclosure Agreement?
A confidential disclosure agreement includes the following:
- A description of the project/research in question
- Obligations to be upheld by all involved parties.
A confidentiality agreement or secrecy agreement may be used in research to restrict dissemination, which means limiting wider use.
They may also be used when two or more parties plan on collaborating; the confidential disclosure agreement will outline the nature of the potential relationship, the scope and extent of collaboration, and restrictions about what parties can and cannot discuss.
Here is an article that further explores confidential disclosure agreements in clinical research and academia.
What Is the Purpose of a Confidential Disclosure Agreement?
Also known as a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), the purpose of a confidential disclosure agreement is to protect research and proprietary information for evaluation purposes.
Many research labs and companies may share insights about their methodologies and technologies during collaboration. However, they issue a legal agreement to ensure their process and “trade secrets” remain confidential.
Signing a CDA or NDA shows good faith between all parties. It demonstrates trustworthiness and a desire to protect other agencies' methods and inside practices.
You may use a CDA if:
- You have ideas that you want to protect from theft.
- You or your business have potentially patentable products or ideas you wish to protect.
- You are hiring outside consultants who will have temporary access to confidential information.
- You want to protect research data and other confidential information related to clinical research.
- You are collaborating with one or more parties on projects that are not yet made public.
It is important to clarify what counts as “confidential information” from a legal standpoint. First, any public data cannot be kept secret under a CDA. This primarily refers to public records, such as a company’s business address.
Furthermore, a CDA/NDA may not always protect the information, such as in the event of a court subpoena.
Here is an article by Brown University to better understand how a confidential disclosure agreement can protect confidential information.
Confidential Disclosure Agreements in Clinical Research
In clinical research settings, such as laboratories and universities, many research topics include personal information.
It is important to protect participants’ and researchers’ identities throughout the research process. A CDA protects everyone included in non-public research from being shared with the public or used by third-party organizations.
A confidential disclosure agreement is often a one-way agreement that prevents confidential information from being disseminated before publication. Examples include designs that could be potentially protected by a patent, technologies, methodologies, and inventions that belong to the researcher(s).
Most CDAs in clinical research establishes a primary investigator. This person is the main point of contact with whom any involved parties must speak. Under the agreement, they are not allowed to discuss any information related to the research with anyone other than the primary investigator.
Most confidential disclosure agreements in research last between 3 to 7 years. This ensures that no third parties can access any information, and the researchers can utilize any results of their work without the risk of dissemination.
Here is an article about how confidential agreements are used in research.
What Are the Benefits of a Confidential Disclosure Agreement?
The benefits of a confidential disclosure agreement are protection against public disclosure of confidential information.
The parties in the CDA may have access to private data, but they cannot share this information with any third parties.
A confidential disclosure or non-disclosure agreement safeguards an organization's intellectual and proprietary rights as well as the identity and data of any research participants.
The greatest benefit to researchers or companies that issue CDAs is the protection of any intellectual rights. This can include their in-house methodologies, best practices, technologies, and other confidential information.
In a confidentiality and noncompete agreement,parties must agree not to enter business with products or services that directly compete with the contract’s issuer. This can help preserve and protect a business’s profitability when doing partnerships or hiring consultants.
Another major benefit is the peace of mind that the issuer can receive by having potential collaboration partners sign an NDA/CDA. Their signature serves as a legal promise to not discuss, disclose, or disseminate any confidential information they have access to during their agreement.
Here is an article where you can learn why CDAs/NDAs are important.
Who Writes a Confidential Disclosure Agreement?
The issuer of the confidential disclosure agreement should draw the agreement. The CDA may be a modified template or drawn entirely from scratch.
It may be beneficial to consult an attorney before issuing a CDA/NDA. This can ensure that all the information you wish to protect is covered with the appropriate legal jargon. It can also prevent parties from exploiting any oversights or loopholes and breaching their secrecy agreement.
If you decide to write your confidential disclosure agreement, you will need to include:
- The definition of confidential information under your agreement.
- Exclusions of any confidential information.
- Obligations of the receiving parties.
- The time periods of the CDA.
- The nature of a relationship, if any, established by the CDA.
- A severability clause.
- An integration and amendment clause.
- A waiver clause.
A non-competition agreement can be added as a clause to a confidential information agreement. Under this clause, signing parties agree not to take any ideas from their collaboration and use them in a competitive business strategy.
You may struggle to fully capture the complete details of a CDA if you have no legal experience. While many research facilities already have CDA documents, you may find an agreement written by a lawyer to be the most beneficial.
Suppose you are asked to sign a CDA but are unclear or uncertain about the contents. In that case, it is best to speak with an attorney before signing anything.
While it is not a crime to break a CDA, there can be legal penalties in some situations. The extent of any legal and financial consequence will depend on the type of information and use after the breach.
For example, if someone steals an idea they acquired through a collaborative project, the idea's originator can sue them for theft.
Penalties for breaking a confidential disclosure agreement can include termination from a job, the immediate termination of a partnership or joint venture, monetary fines, compensation for legal fees, and the return of a stolen asset.
In some cases, such as a stolen idea, you may be required to cease and desist any business practices that use the idea and remove it from all public spaces.
Here is an article that contains a sample confidentiality agreement.
Confidential Disclosure Agreement vs. Non-Disclosure Agreement
A confidential disclosure agreement is the same as a non-disclosure agreement. There are many variations of both types of agreements, but they all serve the same purpose: to protect confidential information.
The biggest difference between an NDA and CDA lies in their common uses. For example, a non-disclosure agreement is more common in most business settings.
A CDA is more common as a confidentiality agreement in clinical research.
In both cases, you may also see an integrated or separate noncompete agreement to protect a party’s intellectual rights. This type of clause is sometimes referred to as “restrictive covenants.”
Ultimately, a CDA and NDA are the same legal agreement. The term you choose can be a matter of personal preference, but it may also reflect the common name used in your line of work.
Here is an article to understand the difference between a CDA vs. NDA.
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