Intellectual property (IP) infringement has become a serious threat to the United States economy. Research by the FBI and US Border Patrol Services indicates that IP theft causes up to $250 billion in losses per year, which has created the loss of 750,000 jobs. The US Department of Commerce reports that the losses associated with IP theft affect all industries, but most notably manufacturing, consumer goods, technology, software, and biotechnology organizations, such as pharmaceuticals. IP theft ranging from sale of counterfeit goods to stealing patented ideas creates a problem that American businesses need to be aware of and prepared to combat.
Installing IP asset controls to keep intellectual property safe and reduce costly theft or infringement is critical to combatting new age IP crime. Some successful IP asset controls that have been observed include:
- Take physical security measures to limit who can access IP assets, and to keep track of every person who has access
- Protect IP assets with passwords and access codes that only a select few individuals know
- Force individuals with access to IP assets to sign Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreements
- Provide company-wide training for all employees demonstrating the importance of protecting IP assets, and educating on procedures for maintaining strict confidentiality about company IP
- For IP assets stored electronically, keep strict controls over the network and electronic documents by use of firewalls, intrusion detection, and encryption technology
- Make it clear which documents are confidential by marking them, “Confidential”
- Conduct background checks on new employees, prospective business partners, and all third-party affiliates (such as independent contractors or temporary employees)
- Register all copyright and trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office
There are additional procedures that can vary from company to company, but the ongoing theme to remember when protecting IP assets is simple: take the due diligence necessary to monitor and control who can access IP, and how. Intellectual property, whether it be stored physically or electronically, must be protected and controlled by limiting access and by verifying the trustworthiness of parties who are able to view it. Intellectual property infringement is a significant threat to any business, but taking the time to install appropriate IP asset controls can protect valuable information and keep businesses safe from theft.