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Intellectual property: how can you protect it?

What is intellectual property?

According to the official wording, intellectual property is any creation of the human mind, which may be a written, artistic, symbol, name, image, or other commercially used invention.

Intellectual property is protected against unauthorized use by various means, such as patents, copyrights, or trademarks.

To fully understand the report, it is worth starting with general ownership. For example, if we have a property, we also have the right to develop, use, and enjoy it. But we also have the right to exclusivity to keep unauthorized people away from it – which the police or the court can help with. This, in turn, may be equally true of intellectual inventions.

Of course, we can try to keep our creation simply a secret, but that is very doubtful. Once we tell someone what it’s all about, it’s very hard to keep track of who to pass it on to. It is even more difficult for someone to come up with a concept very similar to ours independently of us: in this case, it is almost impossible to prove that the leak of the secret caused the idea, or indeed someone else, independently of us, came up with the same solution.

Intellectual property laws are designed to prevent such a situation: they help to keep creative ideas safe in a legally correct way. Therefore, properly protected intellectual property can even be a serious, monetary measure of business advantage.

How is it possible to protect intellectual property?

These laws can typically be grouped into three areas:

  • Trademark: the exclusive right to use a trademark in trade for specific products and services
  • Patent: the exclusive right to create, use or sell an invention for a pre-determined period of time
  • Copyright: the exclusive right to copy, modify, distribute or publicly perform or display an original work

In addition to the above, we may also have the opportunity to make exclusive use of expertise, for example. For example, if a company has a suitable contract with an economic expert, they may have the opportunity to use the expert’s expertise only in the development of their company in that business area. But it could even include a project manager having a new idea about a company’s efficiency one day and starting to apply it in their day-to-day work.

Intellectual property should therefore be properly and legally protected. In general, the following steps are recommended:

Make a note of exactly what intellectual property you have

The first step in protection is to know exactly what we are protecting. Regularly gather from your company’s senior employees exactly what intellectual property they may own about the company. It is a good idea to communicate the protection clearly to all employees involved, in order to avoid any accidental data leaks: business secrets can be revealed even during an innocent conversation if the employee is not fully aware that he or she needs to protect it.

Store the information in the right place

The defense itself is only as strong as we make it. Let’s make sure our IT systems are capable of protecting our data – not just in storage, but also in handling it. It is useless to have the most secure cloud service if, for example, our networked printers used to print company documents are outdated and could be a vulnerability for attackers.

Mark confidential information

Failure to indicate that certain information is confidential may inadvertently cause problems. When an employee enters a protected system, we clearly indicate that the information contained therein cannot be transferred outside the company in any way. And if we are protecting particularly important information, we can restrict access or even add extra security measures to the login and monitor who accessed the data when.

Listen to the coincidences

It often happens that our employees leak confidential information against their will using various online tools – be it corporate or other software. Data leakage can even occur through corporate channels by automatically inserting the wrong email address when sending an email, or by accidentally sending the wrong attachment.

According to a 2019 study, the most common data leaks occurred on the following platforms:

  • External email account such as Gmail (51%)
  • Corporate email account (46%)
  • File sharing via FTP network (40%)
  • Communication and file management tools, e.g. Dropbox or Slack (38%)
  • SMS or instant messaging application, e.g. Whatsapp (35%)