When you’ve got a good idea and you’re ready to build a business around it, the last thing you typically think about is protecting the idea itself. You’re more concerned with creating a solid brand and securing financing for your business.
And that’s great, that’s what you should be able to focus on without worry. Because you came up with your intellectual property yourself, and no one would try to steal it, right?
Unfortunately, this is a trap that many startup business owners fall into. And if you’re thinking about ways to avoid intellectual property issues, keep reading.
We’re breaking down the basic steps that you need to take to keep your intellectual property, and your business, safe.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is a broad term that covers a lot of different areas of a business. It can be something as simple as your company’s outline for a new product launch or a specific way to manufacture your goods or anything in between.
And while you can’t touch your intellectual property or feel it in your hand, it’s still in danger of being stolen now more than ever in the digital age we live in. And it can be difficult to get a win in a case about intellectual property rights in the event that yours is stolen.
You can learn more about judgments in cases about intellectual property rights on this blog.
You can secure your intellectual property with patents and trademarks, but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t still come along and steal it from you anyway.
Luckily, there is still plenty that you can do to prepare and protect your intellectual property.
Know What You’ve Got
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you and all of your employees know what information is proprietary. If they don’t know what information needs to be protected, they can’t do a very good job of protecting it, can they?
This is a link that you’ll see in the chain of protection over and over again: communication. It’s important that everyone in your organization keeps an open line of communication so everyone knows exactly what is expected of them.
Know Where You’ve Got It
Your intellectual property will wind up in many different places around your office.
Your core IT system is where you should focus the bulk of your efforts, but it’s important that you also pay attention to places like printers, fax machines, file-sharing services, and your employee’s personal devices.
Get Your Priorities In Order
People who are well versed in taking care of intellectual property know how to do a cost-benefit analysis. Turn to these people to help you learn how to prioritize your intellectual property.
Decide what would hurt your company the most if it were to be stolen. Then decide what is the most at risk of being stolen. That should give you a good idea about where to focus your efforts when considering what to protect.
Make Sure Your People Know the Importance
Your intellectual property is important and it’s a big deal.
The people that are close to your business need to know that it’s important. Don’t be afraid to put a label or banner on anything that might contain intellectual property.
It might sound basic, but it’s an important step at proving that everyone in your business knows what they aren’t allowed to take. If nothing else, it gives you a foot up in court should something go wrong.
Keep It Digitally and Physically Locked Down
You’re going to run into a ton of intellectual property issues if you don’t take the necessary steps to protect it. It’s not good enough just to have a solid protective firewall against the outside world.
You need to have strict passwords and allowances for your employees so no one has access for information that they don’t need. The fewer people who can get to your intellectual property, the better.
You also need some physical protection. No matter where your intellectual property is stored, you need to have it locked down tight. Don’t let anyone who doesn’t need to be there in.
Educate Your Employees
When it comes to the chain of protecting intellectual property, humans are your weakest link. That’s why it’s important to educate them on how to prevent leaks of information.
But you need to make sure that you’re educating the right employees on the right material.
Your employees need to understand all the ways that intellectual property leaks. It’s usually by accident, through an external email or a file sharing sent to the wrong person.
You need to teach your employees the correct way to manage proprietary information so that they can take proactive steps in protecting it.
Keep Communication Open for the Big Picture
We’re going to paint a picture for you here.
Imagine that your internal network catches one of your employees scanning the network. Your IT crew talks to the employee and they explain it away in a reasonable manner.
A while later, your security system catches someone walking out with protected material. The employee claims that they didn’t know that it was in their bag, and that’s that.
On their own, these two instances don’t seem like such a big deal. But when the different branches of your security team work together, they can spot a recurring issue and prevent IP theft.
Be Vigilant and Avoid Intellectual Property Issues
Intellectual property issues are hard to find, harder to prosecute, and even more difficult to undo the damage from. That’s why you need to take proactive steps in protecting all aspects of your business because one’s the cat’s out of the bag there’s no putting it back in.
If you’re looking to protect your intellectual property, but aren’t sure what tech you need to do that, read this blog next!