You remember the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. The moral of Aesop’s fable was that slow and steady wins the race. But the truth is, today you have to be fast and steady. You have to be the tortoise AND the hare, not one or the other. Yes, you have to get your idea to market quickly. But you also have to be steady and focused when it comes to protecting your intellectual property (IP).
So what can you do? What are the best practices to protect intellectual property without slowing the development of your idea?
You might be in a hurry but it’s worth it to walk through some basic steps. After all, intellectual property is the core of your business and keeping IP safe from external threats and internal prying eyes is essential to the security of your business.
THREATS FROM OUTSIDE
To protect your IP from outside threats, here are some best practices to put into play:
- Study key terms. Educate yourself and your team members on terms specific to the protection of IPs such as copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. Research at the onset can prevent a lot of confusion and misunderstandings later on.
- Search for patents. If you’re IP is not yet patent protected and you are in the patent filing process, you may want to evaluate hiring a professional provider to perform a comprehensive patent search. You can conduct your own preliminary patent search using simple tools such as com/patents to get a general idea and check for both international and domestic patents.
- File provisional patents. A provisional patent filed with the S. Patent and Trademark Office will protect your IP for twelve months. The USPTO can also educate you on trademarks and copyrights.
- Determine your risk. If you operate a technology-based business or you’re dealing with proprietary software licensing, there are a unique set of threats and solutions for you to consider. Software related patent litigation has increased by 35% annually since 2009, with 2015 being the most litigated year to-date. Web based analytics platforms and location based services have been the subject of such litigation.
- Consult with your insurance broker. Once you have considered potential exposures, you should consult with a Commercial Insurance risk specialist to determine specific coverages that are available to protect your IP. Travelers has some great information on deploying an IP Risk Management Program, especially for businesses in the technology sector.
THREATS FROM INSIDE
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights will protect your IP from the competition, but what about your employees? Malicious or not, it happens. You can protect your IP from internal security leaks by applying these best practices:
- Create an NDA. Take the time to draw up a comprehensive non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and an employee code of conduct and ask your employees to sign both. The NDA will lay out the dos and don’ts for your team regarding your IP. The code of conduct provides specific guidelines for handling IP. These two documents serve to educate your loyal employees about IP security and also to protect your organization from intentional wrongdoing.
- Secure your information. Make information available only on a need-to-know basis. If you have confidential information stored digitally (which most of us do), compartmentalize the data and keep it secure from staff and vendors who don’t need to access the information.
- Be aware. Check logs for suspicious activity or attempts to access secured files on the server or shared drive. Having an IP manager with a deep understanding of digital security will help you to keep the door closed on your most sensitive information.
Managing risks associated with your intellectual property requires a strategy specific to your industry. Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) provides solutions for the unique IP challenges that your business faces. Get in touch with us at MMA to learn more about how we can help protect your intellectual property. Let us keep you in the race.