How to Ensure Your Employees Safeguard Your Intellectual Property
Whether you’re a brand new enterprise, an expanding business or the head of a large corporation, it’s vital to understand the role that your personnel plays in protecting your intellectual property. According to recent statistics, a startling number of staff members are not familiar with their obligations concerning company IP and the potential consequences of accidentally exposing confidential information. More worryingly still, over a third of employees confessed that they’d contemplate divulging their company’s IP for a fee.
This article explains how you can best safeguard your company’s intellectual property by educating your employees, promoting a positive work culture and understanding the legal options at your disposal.
Avoiding potential staff IP hazards
The majority of staff members simply do not understand the true importance that particular forms of intellectual property carry. From a specially developed proprietary business plan and management procedures, through to the heavily guarded contents of an undisclosed iconic restaurant recipe, having such knowledge unintentionally revealed can be of great detriment to your revenue and damage your long term prosperity.
For a new company that is seeking to attract additional financing or wishing to ultimately develop a franchise business, those keen to come on board must be completely satisfied that everything pertaining to your IP is secure. For this reason, it’s imperative that all personnel are aware of what your company IP is strictly defined as, their obligations in safeguarding your IP from outsiders and the ramifications for not doing so.
Employees who understand the dangers posed by inadvertently releasing IP on social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter through regular banter or by recklessly leaving devices around that contain sensitive company information such as computers are much more likely to display proper care. While some individuals may be tempted to auction off IP to interested parties, there are legal measures that can be used to help prevent this.
Another common way in which your IP can be either accidentally or intentionally compromised comes as a result of the ever-changing comings and goings of your workforce. In cases where your staff depart to join a direct competitor, their grasp of your company’s innermost secrets is of great value to their new job and their new employer.
Implementing IP Protective Measures
Close surveillance of your employees will give them the impression that you don’t have faith in them, which may impact their job satisfaction and can ultimately prompt them to leave company. Teaching and interacting with your staff on a regular basis is the best way to guarantee that they will prevent your trade secrets from entering the wrong hands. Making them feel appreciated is vital to establishing a sense of trust and integrity in the workplace. This becomes ever more critical as the business expands, as employees tend to feel that their personal contributions are less significant as the business becomes larger.
While treating your employees with respect and gratitude is a key aspect of IP preservation, there are legal measures that can be put in place to shield your IP against violations by staff, third parties and other B2B’s or individuals the company may come in contact with from time to time. In most regions throughout the world, it is illegal to duplicate or distribute the material without the express permission from the rightful owner.
Whilst it is possible for a patent to terminate after a certain period of time, protecting your company secrets by keeping identifying them as ‘classified information’ needs no formal application and is able to be legally enforced straight away. However, this doesn’t discourage others from attempting to procure the information for themselves and using it to develop their own products, either by dismantling your product and determining how it’s been developed or by creating a similar product that effectively mimics your own but is able to pass through a legal loophole. Unlike a patent, anyone with a legal way of accessing your private information can do so without fear of retribution.
With job-switching an ordinary issue now faced by every workforce in this day and age, non-disclosure stipulations have become more commonplace amongst employers. For those wishing to protect their IP, such stipulations should clearly specify to the new employee or anyone else you’re doing short or long-term business with, that they are strictly forbidden from revealing any information about the company that is referred to in the document that they sign.
Such documents will often make it illegal for a former employee to immediately set about competing with you in your industry while utilizing their knowledge of your company IP to their benefit. Other times, previous staff may also be barred from poaching your employees and incorporating them into their own business, for a set period of time.
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