Don’t Let Your IP Become an Open Secret

Value of IP

Most businesses have intellectual property (IP), even if they don’t realise it.  It could be something as exotic as the Colonel’s Secret Herbs and Spices or as simple as your client/customer list.

Brand and online data have rapidly become the most important assets of successful modern businesses.  The days of owning vast real estate or physical assets are diminishing.  Take Air B’n’B, Uber and Facebook for example.  Here we have the largest accommodation provider, taxi service and content creator respectively on the planet.  Air B’n’B don’t own any real property, Uber don’t own any vehicles and Facebook don’t create any content.  The value in these companies exists in their IP, both in their trade mark (brand) and the information they store.

With these opportunities though, come risks.  Holding third party confidential information data (names, contact addresses/numbers, credit card details) is a very lucrative business opportunity.  However, as we’ve seen with the Ashley Madison, Sony leaks and various other banking hacks, protecting that information is critical to a business’ reputation and thus success.  Protecting your brand is equally as important as protecting confidential information.  The Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee are currently going through a very expensive rebranding process after failing to ensure their proposed logo didn’t breach any other existing trade marks.  Burger King encountered the same issue when expanding to Australia and had to rebrand as Hungry Jacks.  No big deal for those two bottomless pits of money, but fatal to an SME.

Protection of IP

Some IP can receive registered legal protection (such as patents, trade marks, designs) while some requires contractual protection (such as copyright, trade secrets and confidential information).

However, protecting your IP through registration or contract is only one step in taking IP protection seriously.  The second is the practical security steps (both physical and software) taken in respect of storage and notification of breaches.

We often see businesses have their legal component in order but none of the practical.  And so whilst we have an excellent agreement to sue an ex-employee on, the client does not have any actual evidence of the theft of its IP.

Conversely, some people have the Rolls Royce of security only to find out they don’t own the IP or don’t have a contract protecting it.  For example a client’s whiz bang IP protection software notified a business owner immediately when a sales’ staff was nefariously forwarding home a customer list with the intention to resign shortly thereafter.  Unfortunately, said business had no employment agreement in place that gave the employer any rights to do anything about such conduct.

Although some is better than none, one without the other leaves a big hole in your ability to protect your IP.  Prevention is better than a cure and the legal framework should be used to benefit your position once your frontline security monitoring catches an IP thief in the act.

Many law firms can provide the legal framework and a number of software/security/IT companies provide the practical protection.  Only one firm is known to provide a full solution to both aspects of this problem, and that’s Ready5.  We at Sajen teamed with international software house Argent to create Ready5 as a one-stop shop for IP and data protection.  Ready5 will conduct an IP Audit of your business to identify the IP you hold, review how it is being secured and report with recommendations on how you can improve your IP protection.  With company directors recently being made personally liable under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) for failures to properly protect personal information, the time is ripe to secure your valuable IP and minimise the risk to you and your business.

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