Intellectual property threats include threats from unauthorized copying over the internet, threats from hackers, and threats from employees. 

Threats to Intellectual Property on the Internet

The rise of the internet as the world's No. 1 communication platform has led to an inevitable increase in the number of businesses that use it. The internet has made it easy for businesses to interact with customers and employees. Companies typically use the internet to advertise, sell, and enable employee collaboration. The ease of flow of communication over the internet comes with some disadvantages, though. One of the major disadvantages is that the internet may expose a company's intellectual property to theft and misuse. UpCounsel Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Attorneys can help you asses this type of risks for your business.

How to Protect Company Data From Theft Over the Internet

Companies should take basic steps to minimize instances of intellectual property theft over the internet:

  • Disclaimers and Notices: Companies can use disclaimers, notices, and contracts to alert their customers about illegally distributing company property. Although the effectiveness of such notices is limited, it can prevent law-abiding individuals from abusing intellectual property online.
  • Use of Technical Methods: Companies can also invest in technical means to prevent IP theft over the internet. These include the use of watermarks on images and encrypting software to turn away unauthorized users.

Intellectual Property Theft by Hackers

There is a rise in the number of computer hackers who use various tools to steal intellectual property remotely. Hackers are motivated by many factors. While some hackers are young people whose only aim is to prove they can hack, there is a more serious threat from former employees who want to exact revenge and hackers hired by competitors or foreign governments that want to access trade secrets. The Chinese government, in particular, has been implicated in a number of high-profile thefts of trade secrets.

How to Protect Your Data From Hackers

There are a number of steps business owners can take to secure their intellectual property against hackers.

  • It is important to sensitize employees about the importance of data protection.
  • The company can use strong computer firewalls to try to preclude hackers from company networks.
  • Since a surprisingly high number of hacking incidents starts with so-called “phishing email” attacks that trick employees into surrendering secret network login credentials, employees should be instructed never to share their login information with anyone.
  • Companies should also invest in good anti-malware software tools.

Intellectual Property Theft From Insiders

Of all threats of loss of business intellectual property, the biggest threat comes from insiders. In some cases, the loss of business intellectual property is due to employee negligence. However, most cases of intellectual property theft by employees are motivated by malice. Many incidents happen when the employee believes he has been treated unjustly after a course-altering event for the company. Some things companies need to watch out for are:

  • Mergers
  • Acquisitions
  • Layoffs

According to one survey, 65 percent of insiders who steal company files have already accepted an offer from a competitor.

How to Guard Against Loss of Intellectual Property to Insiders

Companies should take steps to protect intellectual property from insiders.

  • Since most of the instances of employees stealing intellectual property are by use of email from the company network, companies can protect their property by using a logging system that monitors emails sent to suspicious addresses like competitor accounts, employee personal accounts, and other accounts.
  • Companies can deploy security policies that limit employee access to files they are not using.
  • Companies can also limit the use of removable storage like flash disks on certain company computers that contain sensitive information.
  • Beefing up physical security can also go a long way in protecting company intellectual property from physical theft.
  • Trade secrets and other intellectual property can be protected by getting employees to sign nondisclosure agreements. This can establish tough financial penalties if the employee maliciously leaks a company's trade secrets.

It is important for companies to identify and register intellectual property. This includes designs or potential designs of goods and services. Although a company automatically gets the copyright of an item by simply producing it, it can be hard to prove in court that the item belongs to the company if it was not registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.

If you need help dealing with threats to intellectual property, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.