Intellectual property can have varying levels of importance in a business, but still, you do want to make sure what you have is protected to the best of your ability. The protection can come in two general areas. The first is legal protection, and the second is cybersecurity protection.
In terms of cybersecurity protection for IP, options can range from having a secure DNS solution to monitoring file and email transfers.
Below are tips from both a legal and security perspective for protecting intellectual property within a business.
There are three major legal approaches you can take to secure intellectual property.
There are trademarks that you can register so that you have the exclusive right to use it. Trademarks protect things like logos, designs, names, and phrases.
Copyrights protect things like music and literature, usually. Copyrights are long-lasting protections, and you register them with the U.S. Copyright Office. When you file copyright, it can be a lengthy process.
Then, what most businesses rely on legally are the use of patents. When you’re an entrepreneur, patents can protect the underlying ideas of your business, your product, or your service.
In terms of laws for intellectual property, patents are the strongest protections. Patents do have expiration dates though, and whoever gets there first gets the patent.
Many of the biggest sources of IP theft come from outside of the United States. This can stem from cyber attacks, but also not having legal protections in place in countries most likely to steal intellectual property.
It’s expensive, however, to manage a portfolio of IP so what most businesses do is work on spending their budgets in countries where the theft is most likely to occur. Think specifically about your IP and then what countries may be riskiest to you. Focus your legal strategies such as IP registration and other protections in those high-risk countries.
In doing so, you will likely need to work with local legal professionals within those countries, and you’ll need to stay proactive in how you deal with your IP protections.
When you’re deciding what’s worth protecting, you have to think outside of what’s important to you and look at what would be important to others, because it might not necessarily be the same.
Be aware that filing patents aren’t always the best thing to do to prevent theft of IP. Instead, patents can actually provide more opportunity for theft because they show how it’s done, and then there are ways to work around the patent.
It’s not always external threats that are the biggest risk to organizations—it can come from within. When companies investigate theft from their databases, what they often find is that employees don’t steal information to sell it. Instead, they most often steal it to take with them to another business or to start a similar business.
Research shows that insider IP theft most often occurs among people who are tech-related positions such as engineers and programmers, and around 65% of employees who commit insider IP theft have already either taken another position elsewhere or have started a competing company at the time they do it.
The channels by which IP theft most commonly occur include through email printed materials, removable media, and file transfer. There are also remote network access and downloads made to outside laptops.
An important cybersecurity approach to reduce internal IP theft is to use encryption, as well as additional layers of authentication
Having employees regularly sign updated agreements about intellectual property may help, as well as training employees on what to look for from fellow employees.
Additionally, having a strong offboarding of employees in place can help.
When storing intellectual property, use at least two-factor authentication because 81% of breaches are the result of compromised credentials.
Regularly Review Your Portfolio and the Tools You Use to Secure It
What’s contained in your intellectual property portfolio can change pretty quickly. Security measures and best practices can as well. It’s important that you often take stock of your IP assets at least once a year. Make sure that in doing so you’re aware of not just what’s there but how it’s being protected from internal and external threats and see if there are any places you can make improvements.