What Constitutes Your Intellectual Property and What Are You Doing to Protect It?

What constitutes Intellectual Property? This is a question that many can answer, but few can describe the scope, hence when managers are told that their Intellectual Property or IP may be slipping through their fingers to their competitors, they frown at such suggestion initially. For example let us take a look at a Business Analysis document for an IT project that will increase the staff productivity of the accounts receivable department by 40%.

Now it is unlikely that your competitors will come nosing around to see how your accounts receivable department works, because the modus operandi is fairly standard across different organizations. However, an IT system that increases the department’s productivity will have a cascading effect across the business, leading to gains in other departments by the way of increased orders or demand for services. In this case a document like this is classified as a trade secret. A trade secret is an item of non-public information concerning the commercial practices or proprietary knowledge of a business and is considered as part of an organization’s IP.

If the business analysts leaves your organization with this document and goes to work for your competitor, the gains that you have achieved in your organization no longer gives you the competitive edge because sooner or later your competitor is planning to design the same or even a better system to compete in the same market with you. Another example of intellectual property that could give your competitors the edge is on projects that never take off or were shelved for one reason or the other.

Information is becoming a very valuable commodity, and many organizations will pay a lot of money to get their hands on it. So the question is what are you doing to protect your business’ intellectual property? Have you ever done a full assessment of your organization to fully define what constitutes intellectual property in your organization? If you have not it may be time to seek advice with your legal department or advisers to help you define what your Intellectual Property is.

Once you have defined all your intellectual property, the next step is taking the necessary measures to protect that property. This will be defined in the “Use of corporate assets” policy document and/or the “IT Policy Document”. Clearly defined boundaries will increase the awareness of the need to protect the company’s intellectual property. These documents must be reviewed regularly, alongside the corporate document that defines what constitutes intellectual property.

In the last decade outsourcing has grown exponentially to help businesses become more efficient, as well as reduce costs. However, part of the deal means that some of your intellectual property must be passed on to these outsourcing businesses. Does your outsourcing strategy document deal with how your IP is managed?

With mobile devices like laptops and netbooks outselling desktop units, there is the increased risk of higher levels of IP residing on these devices. Corporate strategies need to be put in place to protect your organization’s IP. Taking security of IP is something that should be taken seriously in this information age in order to maintain your competitive edge.

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