As business owners, we often forget to protect one of our most important assets: intellectual property. Intellectual property can include anything from trademarks to trade secrets. And if you’re not careful, these assets can be stolen. Intellectual property is a valuable commodity in the global marketplace. It’s also easier than ever for criminals to use digital means like hacking to steal intellectual property.
That’s exactly what happened recently to the large electronics manufacturer Acer. According to reports, Acer was attacked by international cyber thieves who obtained access to a range of internal information, including intellectual property. Even though no consumer data was exposed, Acer still lost a lot of insider documentation to the hacker. Not surprisingly, the hacker began selling the stolen intellectual property to profit from the breach.
You don’t have to be an internationally known brand like Acer to become the target of intellectual property theft. Any business can be a target, which means every CEO or founder must implement measures to safeguard the company’s intellectual property.
Tips for Ensuring Your Intellectual Property Remains Safe as a Global Entity
When selling to (and working with) people and organizations worldwide, you must understand how best to keep your intellectual property out of harm’s reach. Some methods that can work include those listed here.
Understand what types of protection don’t work beyond the boundaries of the United States
Let’s say you’ve gotten a patent in the United States for one of your company’s latest inventions. That’s terrific, but it won’t mean much when you go global. You’ll need to get a patent for your invention in every country where you do business. Though it seems like a lot of legwork and investment, it’s worth the effort. Otherwise, you’ll have little legal standing if someone claims your intellectual property as their own outside the United States.
It’s worth sitting down with a professional who can help you determine how to protect your trademarks, copyrights, patents, and more. Again, you can expect to pay for this advice, but you’ll be glad you did. Registering your intellectual property requires different steps based on each country’s law. Working with someone who has “been there” and “done that” before means a faster solution in the long run.
Be wary of giving international employees immediate access to your intellectual property
Do you have a distributed workforce? Many companies have both in-office and remote workers. Sometimes, those workers are located outside of the United States. Our job is to ensure that, no matter where your team members are located, their access to intellectual property is limited to what they need.
This isn’t to say that you should be suspicious of the people you hire. However, plenty of breaches are inside jobs. In other words, they come from within the organization, not from an outside source. Accordingly, be sure that you aren’t allowing just anyone to be able to see (and copy) your intellectual property.
Keep records of your company’s innovations while they’re in the process
It’s not unusual for companies to fight over patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Here’s why: Maybe a former employee went to your competitor and took along some ideas for an incredible app that your marketing team’s innovation incubator lab was working on. The employee could share the details of the app project. Your competitor would then try to get it to market quickly and patent it as their own.
This is sneaky and unprofessional. It happens, though. One way to prove an innovation is yours is to file for several patents throughout the inventing process. Another is to keep clear, concise, and date-stamped records. The records will help you prove in a legal situation that your team invented the app, not the competitor who stole your employee and your intellectual property.
Report intellectual property theft when it occurs
It might seem hard to believe, but some intellectual property theft goes unreported. Why? There are so many reasons. Sometimes, owners may deem the intellectual property inconsequential and, thus, decide to “let it go.” Other times, executives don’t want to make headlines or cause a stir. These are understandable reactions, but they’re not best practices if you want to keep your global company’s intellectual property safe.
The best course of action if you suspect (or know about) intellectual property theft is to report it to the proper authorities in both your country and where the theft happened. No, seeing your brand in the media is not fun because of intellectual property infringement. However, it will make others think twice about stealing from your business.
It’s not always easy to ensure that your intellectual property is fully protected, particularly when expanding outside of the United States. Nevertheless, conduct thorough due diligence early and continuously. Your intellectual property is still property, making it a valuable asset you wouldn’t want in anyone else’s hands” for smoother reading.
DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a third-party contributor and does not reflect the opinion of Born2Invest, its management, staff or its associates. Please review our disclaimer for more information.
This article may include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “project,” “estimate,” “become,” “plan,” “will,” and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks as well as uncertainties, including those discussed in the following cautionary statements and elsewhere in this article and on this site. Although the Company may believe that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, the actual results that the Company may achieve may differ materially from any forward-looking statements, which reflect the opinions of the management of the Company only as of the date hereof. Additionally, please make sure to read these important disclosures.
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