Intellectual property is a hot commodity in today’s business environment, and unfortunately, it’s harder than ever to protect it. There are multiple ways in which other companies and criminals can threaten a brand’s property and reputation.
That probably isn’t shocking news to anyone. But what may come as a shock is that 34% of data breaches in 2019 involved internal actors (employees and vendors), according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. A lot of companies tend to forget about the insider threat when it comes to data security.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that there are plenty of legitimate ways in which companies can protect their brand and IP. Keep in mind that protecting customer data is just as crucial. The loss of client data can have a big impact on brand reputation and the company’s bottom line as IP theft can.
What Counts As Intellectual Property?
Companies depend on their brand identity to make a living. An identity consists of the brand name, logo, colors, designs, and trademarks. These elements are directly related to brand identity as they make up the components that customers recognize and remember.
The other equally important piece of intellectual property that a business owns is its core business idea or product. A business’s competitive advantage is built around this idea or product, and losing this edge can result in major financial losses.
As with many other types of threats (especially of the cyber variety), IP theft is a more acute problem for small to medium businesses. That’s because they tend to have less secure systems in place and often can’t afford to follow up on any cases of theft well as big corporations can.
How to Fight Back Against IP Theft and Prevent Damage to the Brand
Prevention is the single biggest weapon that business owners have against IP theft. Being cautious and implementing safeguards are much cheaper in the long run than dealing with the fallout of data theft would be. Having a contingency plan in place is still a good idea if any data is stolen. That said, here are 5 ways to prevent that from happening in the first place:
1. Registering the Company Name
A company’s name is the brand’s biggest recognizable asset, and it’s important to ensure that it stays unique to the company. Business owners can register their company’s name at their local registry office/state department. This gives them the power to avoid any potential confusion should another company have wanted to choose the same name.
2. Filing for Copyright
Companies don’t just have to worry about their brand elements being stolen, but any content they create may be at risk. This includes any “original works” produced by the company or someone working for the company (depending on their contract). Filing for copyright ownership allows companies to ensure that they have the right to dispute any copying or reuse of their content.
3. Getting Trademarked
Copyright covers a big percentage of the company’s written assets, both online and off, but it doesn’t cover everything brand-related. That’s why trademarking brand-related content like the brand name, slogans, logos, and designs is still a crucial step, even after getting any company content copyrighted.
Theft aside, getting brand components trademarked ensures that the owner has verifiable proof of ownership should anything come into dispute. In order to get trademarked, an application has to be submitted with the local Patent and Trademark Office.
4. Installing a VPN
A large percentage of IP is stolen by external perpetrators. Around 60% of data breaches are caused by intrusions from outsiders who exploit an internal system vulnerability. Many of those are caused by poor network security or poor vendor security. Both problems can be solved by using a virtual private network (VPN).
What is a VPN? It’s a service that provides network encryption, allowing companies to send and receive data over the internet without fear of it being intercepted. Insist that both employees and vendors use a VPN when they connect to the company’s internal network or send sensitive information.
5. Registering the Domain Name
Most companies know that they need to have an online presence in today’s market to be able to reach their target audience. A big part of that is the domain name a business uses, which should ideally be the same as the company name so that people can easily find it.
Registering the domain name is crucial if a business owner has a business with even a slightly common name. Otherwise, they might get stuck with a hyphenated or strangely spelled version of their company name in their website URL.
As a business owner, it’s vital to understand how important protecting any IP is. These tips will certainly help, and they do cover a big percentage of the preventative measures a company can take. However, consulting a lawyer may still be a good idea. They can provide detailed feedback about what type of protections will fit the needs of a specific business.