Intangible Insights: How to Fortify your SME Against the Rising Threat of IP Theft

On the treacherous global battleground of modern business, a silent war rages—one that threatens the very heart and soul of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): intellectual property (IP) theft. 

From sneaky corporations to spying nations, IP theft is on the rise and has become a relentless adversary, lurking in the shadows, ready to snatch away the fruits of real innovation and hard work at the first opportunity, searching for signs of weakness, omission or error. 

The stakes are incredibly high in this winner-takes-all world. IP theft can lead to devastating financial loss, erosion of competitive advantage and irreparable damage, especially for SMEs who don’t have deep pockets to fight these battles. On this battleground, the best offence is a good defence! As the stakes rise, SMEs must rise to the occasion, donning the armour of knowledge, technology, law and vigilance. 

In this blog post, we highlight best practices SMEs should embrace to protect their most valuable business assets and fortify their defences against the insidious and powerful forces of IP theft.

Educate Employees about IP Protection:

  • Develop training programs to educate employees about the value of IP to the success of the company, the importance of IP protection and the potential risks of IP theft.
  • Establish clear guidelines and policies regarding the handling, storage, and sharing of sensitive information, including trade secrets, patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
  • Foster a culture of awareness and responsibility by regularly communicating updates and best practices related to IP protection.

Secure and Monitor IT Infrastructure:

  • Implement robust cybersecurity measures, including firewalls, encryption, and secure access controls, to safeguard against unauthorized access and data breaches.
  • Keep software and operating systems up to date to address vulnerabilities and stay ahead of potential cyber threats.
  • Utilize intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) to monitor network activities and identify any suspicious behaviour indicating attempted IP theft.

Protect Trade Secrets:

  • Restrict access to trade secrets by enforcing robust access controls and implementing stringent user authentication measures.
  • Vigilantly use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), when engaging in discussions with potential employees, partners, contractors, and suppliers, ensuring confidentiality.
  • Incorporate confidentiality and IP ownership clauses into employment agreements and company policies.

Practice Vendor and Partner Due Diligence:

  • Conduct rigorous background checks on vendors, suppliers, and partners before engaging in agreements or divulging sensitive information.
  • Incorporate IP protection clauses into contracts and agreements, unambiguously delineating expectations and responsibilities pertaining to the handling and safeguarding of IP.
  • Conduct regular reviews and updates of vendor and partner agreements to ensure their compliance with current IP protection needs and relevant regulations.

Register and Enforce IP Rights:

  • Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of intellectual property assets to identify those requiring registration, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
  • File for appropriate IP registrations with relevant authorities to establish legal protection and prevent misuse or infringement by others.
  • Maintain a proactive approach to monitoring and enforcing IP rights, regularly monitoring competitors, searching for potential infringements and taking swift legal action if needed.

Utilize Secure Software:

  • Embrace the benefits of utilizing a secure software platform specifically designed for storing, tracking, and securely sharing sensitive information. Such platforms provide enhanced encryption, access controls, and audit trails to ensure protection of your valuable IP.
  • Leverage the advanced access controls of the software platform to grant permissions on a need-to-know basis, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access and modify sensitive IP. Regularly review and adjust permissions to control access. 
  • Avoid heavy reliance on email as a means of sharing sensitive information. Email communication is inherently less secure, susceptible to interception, and lacks the robust security features provided by dedicated software platforms. 

A holistic approach that integrates education, technology, legal protection, and proactive monitoring is key to preserving competitive advantage and ensuring the long-term success of your innovative SME in a world where David battles Goliath daily on a global innovation battleground. Please reach out with any questions or suggestions. 

Fortress IAM™ is the first ‘all-in-one’ intangible asset management (IAM) system designed specifically for innovative SMEs and their advisors to ensure sustained competitive advantage, revenue growth and higher valuations.