"Star Trek" fans appreciate the dangers of being a red shirt. In that universe, ship security personnel wear red and crewmembers in that color are the most likely to die on away missions. The trope has spurred a whole collection of paranoia jokes?
Security and paranoia seem to go hand in hand. And some security measures might come off as being rather hardnosed. But when it comes to protecting a company's intellectual property, we think most would agree there is no room for compromise. IP assets, while seemingly intangible, often are a business's most valuable resources and fear someone is out to get them is justified.
What you can do
Treasured intellectual property typically falls into four categories; patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. But wielding those tools as granted by government to secure exclusive rights to reap maximum benefit are only initial steps. Regardless of the industry, whether it is utilities, pharmaceuticals, agriculture or technology, harnessing innovations requires long-term legal strategies built on certain IP protection fundamentals. These include:
- Taking stock: To protect any intellectual property, you must know what you have and where it is. That includes performing a quarterly inventory, tracking documents pulled from central repositories and setting systems to automatically purge them from devices such as copiers, printers, scanners or fax machines.
- Prioritizing: Not all assets may be mission critical. By identifying what would hurt your business most if it were lost or stolen allows for better use of protection resources.
- Access control: Protection should be both physical and digital. Lock up physical assets behind closed doors and password protect digital information. Then track who is allowed access.
- Communicating: Properly label sensitive information as confidential or proprietary and remind users about protection expectations at every point of access, physical or digital. Train and retrain employees on policies.
- Making security a team effort: Any security breach should be reported across leadership of all business functions to reduce the chance of individual infractions being dismissed as isolated incidents.
- Anticipation: Imagine how you might spy on your own company. If you identify possible vulnerabilities, develop tactics to counter threats.
Finally, it's important to acknowledge that how you conduct business in the U.S. may not be the way it is conducted abroad. Protecting your intellectual property when foreign deals are involved means understanding how other cultures operate, or how they are perceived to operate.
In all such matters, consulting attorneys with deep IP focus will prove beneficial.