The Three Best Ways to Protect Your Company’s Intellectual Property

The Three Best Ways to Protect Your Company's Intellectual Property

The Three Best Ways to Protect Your Company’s Intellectual Property

For most companies today, proprietary data and intellectual property are essential to their core operations. The use or misuse of this information can be critical to a business’s success or failure, which makes its protection a top priority.

If a rival company were to learn about a new product launch or a promotion before its public release date, it could be disastrous. The competitor could undercut the announcement by making one of their own and, in some cases, could offer a similar product or service at a thinner margin or even a loss, simply to attract customers who would spend more money down the line.

This makes the protection and security of intellectual property, proprietary data, and other business operational plans essential for every business. Here are a few ways to ensure that companies can avoid the risk of information being leaked out, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Keeping Things on a Need-To-Know Basis

The first solution is the simplest, which is to prevent too many employees from having this knowledge in the first place. A software company employee who works in marketing, for example, would not need access to the product’s source code in order to do his or her job effectively. Allowing them that access would pose an unnecessary risk.

This is not to say that workers are not to be trusted. Although it is possible that an unscrupulous employee could be willing to sell company secrets to a rival, it is more likely that it could be done accidentally. Our hypothetical marketing manager who invites clients to the office could leave a paper out or an email on the computer screen that reveals too much information.

Also read: 6 Best Practices for Protecting Your Company’s Business Data

Employee Monitoring Software

Another good solution to reduce the risk of leaks is software for employee monitoring, which allows upper management to track employees’ computer usage. Although it is commonly used to increase productivity and discourage employees from browsing Facebook or Amazon during company time, it also has data security uses as well.

A common trend on social media, particularly Twitter and Reddit where comments can be posted semi-anonymously, are employees of various companies posting “workplace secrets” that are generally innocuous, like employee benefits and advantages or disadvantages of working at various corporations, but they sometimes delve into information about upcoming promotions, internal APIs, or other sensitive information.

Although employee monitoring software cannot prevent workers from doing so on their personal computers, the dopamine rush of social media interaction will often lead users to visit such websites more frequently, especially while on break during the workday. A strong social media policy and monitoring software can discourage these revelations from taking place.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the simplest one. A non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, can be vital in protecting companies from unauthorized revelations about their internal plans, procedures, and data.

An NDA should be carefully crafted by the legal department to make sure that all possible scenarios are covered in a legal manner. In most cases, an employee who knows that revealing any sensitive information will result in immediate termination and potential fines will be discouraged from leaking anything, intentionally or unintentionally.

Also read: Tech Companies Can Stay Out of Legal Trouble With These Tips

Summary and Conclusion

Data security and intellectual property protection are important aspects of every business, no matter the size. For example, a food truck or a small restaurant that employs fewer than ten people could have a signature dish that attracts customers from a 50-mile radius.

However, if people knew that the secret ingredient in their chicken cacciatore is a blend of basil and tarragon, they’ll be more inclined to spend $10 buying the ingredients to cook it themselves, instead of paying $25 plus tip at the restaurant.

Similarly, imagine a tech company whose source code or APIs for their $15 per month SAAS product are leaked online. A rival company could then create a near-clone that is just different enough to avoid copyright infringement and sell it for a one-time fee of $50. In this scenario, most customers would prefer a one-time fee for a lifetime license and the original company could potentially lose most of its business.

Ensuring the protection of IP, trade secrets, and other internal company data is essential for businesses of all sizes. While it is not always possible to prevent that data from entering the wrong hands, the right precautions and steps can reduce that risk exponentially and protect a company’s bottom line.

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