What measures have you taken to safeguard your organization’s trade secrets?
Here's a quick quiz: What are some of the most vulnerable — and valuable — assets any organization owns?
And the answer is... Intellectual property.
Intellectual property, or IP, refers to intangible and other assets that are created by the mind (like inventions, art and literature) as well as the logos, images and names used in business. Intellectual property can be broadly categorized as either industrial property — such as patents, trademarks, trade secrets and industrial designs — or copyright, which includes literary works, visual art, films, photographs, architectural design, performing art and broadcasts.
Like rights associated with other types of property, IP rights allow the owners or creators of a work to benefit. Also like other property rights, IP rights cover a wide array of assets, underlying the issue's complex nature.
Given intellectual property's ever-more important role in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy, intellectual property's vulnerable status shouldn't be much of a surprise. From counterfeiting to safeguarding trade secrets, fighting piracy to licensing concerns, shareholders and boards are demanding greater IP stewardship for a reason.
Which intellectual property issues keep you up at night? Whether you're facing challenges related to licensing or monetization concerns, brand and content protection, safeguarding trade secrets and other competitive information, or threats from non-practicing entities (NPEs), read on for a discussion of common IP challenges.
IP Management Practice
What considerations factor into your IP management practice? Anyone in their mid-career or later has probably noticed significant changes in IP management strategies and practices over the past decade, as the economy grows ever more globalized. Incidences of high-profile and high-stakes litigation and IP's increasing status as a valuable corporate asset have contributed to a general rise in consciousness about IP challenges and issues.
Despite a changing environment, certain tendencies remain desirable, such as a tendency toward proactivity — rather than reactivity — when it comes to IP practice. This means starting with the need to obtain and maintain a comprehensive understanding of the IP environment and conditions, then taking action in an effort to both reduce risk and optimize benefits. This may involve a broad definition of IP that classifies any non-tangible or non-real property as intellectual property, allowing for greater agility when dealing with interconnected issues of ownership, security, privacy and protection.
Intellectual Property as a Business Tool for Profit and Growth
Despite IP rights' often high-profile — often thanks to media attention on mergers, acquisitions and litigation — many organizations don't pay full attention to either the risks or the value associated with their IP. However, today's global economy means that IP serves as a driver of growth and success... and that means starting with proper identification and valuation, in order to determine best risk management practices.
As a general rule, IP may be valued based on information such as:
- Cost - How much did it cost to create the IP initially? How much would it cost to recreate it now?
- Market value - Compare the sale or purchase of similar IP to find market value
- Income - How much income has the IP produced in the past? How much do you expect it to produce in the future?
Once you've developed an accurate valuation, you can start developing risk management strategies to protect your IP from infringement or abuse. These may be based on factors such as emerging threats to IP, available resources and legal/regulatory compliance.
Successful protection strategies tend to be those that are developed early in the creation process; that means identifying IP that can be protected by trademark, patent, trade secret or copyright as soon as possible. Each type of IP requires specific protections, so perform a thorough conflict search. You may want to start with the United States Patent and Trademark Database or the United States Copyright Office's Public Catalog. Don't forget to search state registries, as well.
Common IP Challenges
Not all businesses realize the importance and vulnerability of their IP assets. Common challenges include:
- Viewing IP protection as a non-essential (because it's not legally required) cost
- Not anticipating any potential infringement issues
- Ignorance of available protection and resources
Ignoring IP protection may lead to loss of income later, even if you don't think anyone would ever want to copy your brand, product, name or logo. But it actually happens quite frequently, and if your IP isn't registered, it's just that much harder to bring an enforcement action.
Carnegie Mellon University's SPRUCE Project suggests establishing an IP strategy that takes protection of IP assets into account, from patents to copyrights, trade secrets to trade marks. Registering the intellectual property through filing of patents, conducting regular audits and providing access controls are also suggested best practices. Above all, making intellectual property management a priority is key to keeping those valuable assets safe.
Any other IPR concerns keeping you up at night? Join the discussion! Comment below or tweet us @Connex.