Intellectual Property is often considered a company’s most valuable asset and requires vigilance to protect. While patents, trademarks, and copyrights are considered a must to safeguard IP, there are also ongoing proactive measures companies should implement.
Recently the ‘Forbes Technology Council’ published the nine ways to protect your intellectual property. The article highlights measures all companies should employ when creating a robust IP Protection plan. Recommendations range from encrypting IP and controlling access, to gaining expert advice, moving more quickly to market, ensuring customer satisfaction in concert with IP protection, and ensuring legal controls are in place, among other actions.
The Forbes article focuses on broader business strategy when it comes to protecting IP. AT CREATe.org we focus on ways to help companies assess their business processes and controls in place for the protection of IP. We have listed some leading IP protection practices that go beyond the basics and strive to address the people, processes and technology, which are key to a comprehensive approach to IP protection.
- Maintain Records and Policies: A sound IP protection regime should make sure all legal bases are covered. This means maintaining records that show IP ownership, licenses, and other documentation that will help companies defend themselves in case of an incident. It also means having sound policies that cover specifics relating to IP and clearly outline expected behaviors by employees, contractors and others. Contracts should also clearly define what to do in the event of IP theft or other IP related prohibited activities.
- Focus: Is there someone in charge of IP protection? If not, there should be – with full backing and support from senior management. IP protection should also involve others throughout an organization – human resources, division leads, R&D, communications, compliance and others – to ensure that policies and procedures are embedded across an enterprise.
- Security and Encryption: Companies should remember to take IP into account when developing physical and IT security systems. Employing strong encryption on all sensitive IP is a must to prevent potential breaches.
- Know Your Partners: Your company may have a great IP protection system in place, but what about your partners? Making sure third parties can be trusted with your IP is crucial. This requires due diligence and ensuring your partners follow best practices in IP protection as well.
- Be Proactive to Identify Risks before They Happen: Having a risk assessment plan is key in maintaining IP protection. This means staying prepared with expert guidance and informed employees, which leads to the next point…
- Training and Communication: Employees must know what their role is in protecting IP and the consequences of IP loss for the company. Communicating the importance of IP protection responsibilities must be a priority for Human Resource teams and senior management.
- Pay Attention: Monitoring and evaluation is vital in staying sharp against the threat of IP loss. It is wise to regularly audit your systems and critically review company policies. Monitoring employees and partners is a smart way to ensure everyone is complying with IP policies.
- Take Action: If a loss is detected take corrective action and learn from the incident. Conduct a root-cause analysis to discover what happened and why. Problems inevitably will occur but having an action plan will allow you to properly address the issue.
These practices offer a good framework to establish and maintain a sound IP protection system. However, as methods of IP infringement evolve so should an IP protection program. The most successful plans continuously develop and adapt to the changing business and threat environment.
For more information about IP protection, visit www.CREATe.org.