Intellectual property (IP) is a term for any intangible asset -- something proprietary that doesn't exist as a physical object but has value. Examples of intellectual property include designs, concepts, software, inventions, trade secrets, formulas and brand names, as well as works of art. Intellectual property can be protected by copyright, trademark, patent or other legal measure.
Although most large corporations protect themselves from industrial espionage, theft of intellectual property is most often a result of insider threat. In a study conducted by Peter Toren, out of 120 prosecutions for theft of trade secrets, more than 90 percent of the defendants were insiders who had access to the trade secrets because they were employees of the victim or worked for a vendor or contractor of the victim.
Torens offers the following best practices for protecting your organization’s intellectual property:
- Have employees and vendors sign a code of conduct and confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDA) before beginning work.
- Compartmentalize electronically stored confidential information and make it accessible only on a need-to-know basis.
- Immediately revoke a departing employee’s ability to access any proprietary information.
- Conduct exit interviews with employees and require them to attest that they are not taking any confidential or proprietary information to a new employer.
- If suspicious activity on the part of a departing employee is uncovered, consider conducting a full-scale investigation of the former employee’s recent conduct.