Intellectual Property (‘IP’) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, names, images and designs used in commerce. IP also includes confidential information and commercial secrets.
A commercial secret, or trade secret, is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument or pattern that is not generally known and gives a business an economic advantage over competitors or customers. In commerce, confidential information may include things such as pricing and costing information and client lists.
Theft of this kind of information, or IP theft, is a real risk facing businesses today. IP theft costs businesses billions of dollars each year, whether it is from loss of innovative information or from lost clients to competitors as a result of confidential information being in the wrong hands.
However businesses should not only protect themselves against external theft, such as hackers and competitors, but businesses should also be wary about internal theft by current or former employees.
Given the fact that storage devices are now as small as the size of your thumb and files can be uploaded or e-mailed to personal e-mail accounts in seconds, large volumes of confidential and commercial information can be stolen by IP thieves in a matter of seconds.
Businesses should therefore be proactive in protecting themselves against internal theft of Intellectual Property.
Businesses can protect themselves in the following ways:
- Protecting commercially sensitive information by way of agreement with new and existing employees and others who have access to that information.
- Educating employees about the risks and consequences of unauthorised copying or removing information from work computers.
- Identifying risky behaviour before IP theft happens. Employees should be trained and encouraged to watch out for unauthorised conduct engaged in by a co-worker.
- Implementing IT security policies such as controlling and monitoring the use of storage devices, such as USB drives and external hard disks; and controlling and monitoring e-mails on work computers, mobile phones and tablet devices.
- Implementing internet security systems on work computers, mobile phones and tablets that block web-based e-mail servers, as employees can access their personal e-mails through the web and avoid e-mail monitoring systems that may be in place.
- Implementing security systems for commercially sensitive information accessible by higher-level employees. For example, requiring usernames and passwords and logging information about when commercially sensitive information has been accessed and by whom.
- Revoking employee’s access to information before termination so that final vengeful acts of dissemination of information can be avoided.
Some of the services we have provided for our clients include reviewing employment contracts and confidentiality agreements. We can add clauses to your existing contract to protect confidential or commercially sensitive information.
We can also provide you with advice on injunctions and commencing litigation.
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.