I have a personal beef with the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). If we look around, it’s quite a common practice by large organisations to get people to sign NDAs with them before dealing with them.
I was recently approached by a GLC to aid them with some work, which I turned down when they asked me to sign an NDA before we even had a single meeting. Call me old fashioned, but I do not think that a business relationship can survive without trust. So, that’s the first thing that I look for in a business relationship – building trust. Asking me to sign an NDA is a sign of distrust.
The reason that I do not like dealing with companies that ask me to sign an NDA is because it reflects a fundamental philosophical difference in approach to intellectual property. To me, if they have some secret sauce, they should seek proper IP protection. Otherwise, if they just want to gag me, it’s an infringement on my fundamental right to freedom of expression, which I detest.
Furthermore, getting me to sign an agreement that is not legally binding is a sad reflection on how silly things are getting when it comes to IP. Whomever is giving them legal advice is probably not giving them an accurate picture of things. This to me, is amateurish practice. There is no point in getting someone to sign a document with no legal power except as a power play, which is stupid.
However, the main reason that I do not sign an NDA is because it’s because I’m an accredited professional. What this means is that I am to provide the best service that I can to my clients, whomever they are. If I were to be hired by Company A to help do something, and then I was later hired by Company B to do something, I must provide both companies with the best service that I can even if they are competitors.
If I ever act in an unethical manner, they are free to report me and get my Chartered Engineer registration revoked. What adds insult to injury is that the people asking me to sign the NDA are non-accredited professionals themselves.
Maybe I’m crazy to expect trust from larger organisations.