Your company is almost certainly part of the information economy, constantly generating mission-critical data, ideas and intellectual property (IP) of all kinds. At the same time, it often appears as if copyrights, trademarks and patents are losing all meaning to much of the public, including a good portion of your pool of employee prospects.
Of course, many of us sign non-disclosure agreements when we join a company, and ask others to do the same, but they can only do so much even in the best of circumstances. What can be done continuously to protect key assets of a 21st century business? A recent article gathered some expert opinion.
Understand your IP and build a team around it
One expert suggests taking stock of your company to determine where its IP resides, who creates it and how, and how it’s tracked, registered and protected. Getting input from intellectual property attorneys as well as your HR and IT people is likely to reveal insights, surprises and action items.
Also, you’re urged not to let this be a one-off project, and to create an IP manager position and/or team of positions whose permanent mission is to guarantee protection of the company’s IP.
Invest in your IP creators
It’s not enough to control the behavior of the employees creating your intellectual property, either through NDAs or by locking down data. When your IP creators go to another company you say goodbye to the future as well as the secrets of the past. Consider focusing on retaining employees who develop your IP through compensation, benefits and the like, but also by sensibly allowing them to showcase their work as part of their portfolio. Consider even crediting them by name on products they develop.
Analyze risks and take strong legal action
Observe and analyze the behavior of employees to detect risky behavior before that risk is realized, including any potential actual theft. Also, treat compromises of your intellectual property as the threat to the company’s business model that they are. Following up on a zero-tolerance policy with swift legal action will help protect from future compromises by demonstrating the company’s resolve.
See the complete list and discussion in the recent Forbes article.