Knowing how to protect your intellectual property is crucial in today’s business world. Intellectual property can refer to a number of things, ranging from symbols and logos, to images, logos, and names used in commerce.
While you might be tempted to start generating as much attention for you brand as possible from day one, it’s important to ensure you’re properly defended first. The correct approach to IP protection will ensure other people can’t swoop in and steal the things setting your business apart.
Crucially, while copyrights and trademarks are excellent for offering some security, there are additional steps you’ll need to take to ensure the longevity of your brand.
The importance of intellectual property protection
Intellectual property, sometimes referred to as “IP”, can include anything from the specific manufacturing processes you use, to the design of your logo.
So, why do you need to know how to protect intellectual property?
Simply put, companies face substantial losses when IP theft occurs. The commission created for evaluating theft of intellectual property estimates the annual costs of IP losses range from $225 billion to around $600 billion.
If your company loses a part of what makes it unique, you risk lost revenue, problems with your brand reputation, and more.
Unfortunately, you don’t need to look far to see issues with intellectual property theft all over the world. Unscrupulous people are constantly looking for ways to leverage the success and creativity of other companies for their own benefit.
How to protect your IP: Intellectual property protection
The first step in figuring out how to protect your intellectual property rights is knowing what kind of intellectual property you have, and where it is. Audit your existing IP environment, looking for any evidence of assets which differentiate your business.
This could include logos, business names, slogans, manufacturing strategies, product designs, and more.
It’s also important to know where people may be able to access those IP assets. Input/output devices like printers and copiers are often networked and connected to remote management systems, so policies should be in place to purge any residual data as often as possible.
You’ll also need to consider IP on the cloud applications and file-sharing services you use, employee personal devices, and third-party systems (like content shared with business partners).
Once you have a list of all your intellectual property:
1. Register for the correct legal protection
The most common initial step in intellectual property protection, is registering for any trademarks or copyrights you’re eligible for. Once you’ve created your IP, look into the local protections available for your business.
You can register for copyrights for a lot of materials, including intellectual property. Some assets will be eligible for trademarks too.
For inventions, manufacturing processes, and similar concepts, it may be worth looking into filing for a patent. However, there is some controversy in the market as to whether filing for a patent draws too much unwanted attention to your assets.
2. Conduct a cybersecurity audit
Having the correct legal protection in place is great, but you still need to be aware of criminal entities trying to steal your intellectual property. Cybersecurity systems may be the key to protecting a lot of the assets you have.
For instance, do you have firewalls and anti-phishing strategies in place to prevent external parties from accessing your systems?
If your employees are working remotely, are they logging into your network through a VPN to help mitigate risk? A full cybersecurity audit should give you an insight into where your protections are lacking, so you can begin to make changes.
3. Control who can access your content
It’s important to ensure you know exactly who has access to the most sensitive information in your business. Access controls mean you can reduce the number of people in your business able to access things like secret recipes and product design information.
The fewer people with access to sensitive data, the fewer opportunities there are for leaks.
When determining who should be able to access what in your business, make sure you implement encryption too. Encrypting your files and assets will ensure even if someone does get their hands on sensitive assets, they won’t be able to read your files.
4. Educate employees with the right policies
The unfortunate truth is employees are often responsible for a lot of security problems. Awareness training can help to reduce IP leaks, by letting your employees know how to properly protect themselves.
According to studies, the most common sources of IP breaches in a business are usually external email (51%), and corporate email (46%), so start by teaching your employees how to use emails correctly, and how to detect potential phishing attempts.
Other ways to empower your employees to be more secure include:
Providing advice on how to use stronger, more secure passwords.
Implementing two-factor or multi-factor authentication methods.
Teaching staff how to report malware or potential cybersecurity attacks.
Giving staff secure VPN access and teaching them to avoid public internet.
Outlining rules on how to use messaging and communication systems.
5. Look for other security gaps with vendors
Once you’ve audited your existing security system, and delivered the right guidance to your employees, think about other areas where you might be facing unnecessary risks.
For instance, it’s a good idea to avoid working with vendors and partners who don’t have a good security strategy in place, as their protection issues could have an impact on you.
Check a vendor’s security extensively before you begin working with them. The same goes with partners or anyone else who might have access to some intellectual property information you don’t want to be shared.
6. Secure your DNS
Security experts suggest around one in eight companies lose data during a DNS attack. As cyber criminals grow more advanced, they are presenting a range of new threats to growing brands.
Everyone is a potential target, so it’s important to ensure your DNS environment is properly protected.
Your DNS system may be particularly at-risk if you’re enabling remote workers with IoT devices, or if there are “Shadow IT” devices in your ecosystem. To protect intellectual property, make sure your remote workers are fully trained on how to secure their routers and internet connections.
Always have a contingency plan
While searching for “What are some ways to protect intellectual property?” should give you a range of options, like those mentioned above, there’s always a chance you could still end up in trouble. If your intellectual property or data are breached, it’s important to have a contingency plan.
Determine what you’re going to do if something goes wrong within your company, and crucial information is leaked. Do you have a plan for reporting corporate espionage? Are there damage control strategies in place to keep your business running smoothly if certain secrets are stolen?
While an attack on your intellectual property will never be an easy concept to deal with, the right contingency plan should reduce the amount of damage done to your brand. A good plan also ensures you can plug any leaks and prevent further security issues from happening again.
For example, you might require all of your employees to immediately change their passwords, update encryption keys, and take additional training on risk prevention.
Securing intellectual property
Ultimately, protecting intellectual property rights is something the majority of businesses should be thinking about. If you don’t know how to protect IP assets, the unique selling points and differentiating factors of your company could be at risk.
Fortunately, there are various ways to protect intellectual property, from securing your data network, to training your employees. Remember to regularly go back and re-check the quality of your data and asset protection strategies every few months.
The security landscape can change very quickly in today’s digital world, and it’s easy to fall behind with your safety strategy.