Economic espionage has captured the attention of the United States government as a potential threat to the country's prosperity and national security. One court case involving an engineer stealing trade secrets from his employer's system and sharing them with a competitor after leaving the company underlines the importance of protecting intellectual property (see right-hand box for details of the case).
Although companies take steps to protect their trade secrets and intellectual property, it is often not enough to prevent critical information from being stolen.
Trade secrets must be protected. If a company fails to limit trade secret access to only those with a "need to know," a defense attorney can attempt to place doubt in the minds of a jury regarding the defendant's guilt. In other words, if you don't take steps to keep a trade secret a secret, you may lose the rights to it.
Make sure you have strongly worded non-disclosure agreements, as well as other policies and procedures concerning your ownership of trade secrets and proprietary company information. These agreements should be signed by employees indicating that they read and understand them. Outside contractors that need access to sensitive business operations should also sign confidentiality agreements.
Here are some other best practices that can also help prevent intellectual property theft:
These are only some of the steps you can take to secure your company's intellectual property portfolio. Protection can only be accomplished if your company invests the time and effort to implement a fully integrated program.
As the case in the right-hand box shows, an employee can steal vast amounts of intellectual property. Some employees will always find the path of least resistance to commit intellectual property theft. Invest the time today to uncover the paths before your employees steal information that is critical to your success and survival.
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