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January 13, 2022

How to Protect Your Company’s Intellectual Property

Protecting your ideas and intellectual property is possibly one of the most important things that you can do to ensure the success of your business. This is because when it comes to your company’s assets, there are none more valuable than your trade secrets and other intellectual property. As more and more employees work remotely, there has never been a better time to take another look at your data security practices.

It is crucial to remember that even though the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) is in place to help prevent your intellectual property from being stolen, you cannot solely rely on the act for security. Taking the time to ensure that your organization and employees are doing what is required to protect your data can pay off in the long run. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about protecting your ideas and intellectual property.

What is a trade secret?

According to the Economic Espionage Act, a trade secret is any sensitive information regarding finances, technologies, engineering, scientific research, business operations, or economics that a company considers to be private. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Designs
  • Plans
  • Prototypes
  • Methodologies
  • Processes
  • Formulas

The value of this intellectual property comes from it being generally unknown to the public or competitors. The materials themselves can take the form of physical or electronic files, written or typed documents, photographs, or graphics.

What is the Economic Espionage Act?

In 1995, the United States government passed the EEA which made spying on private companies and stealing their intellectual property a federal crime. It covers both stealing confidential competitive information and economic espionage. These crimes are typically committed with the intention of causing the company harm or gaining an unfair advantage in the market. However, they can also be committed for the benefit of a foreign power. When this is the case, the motives often go beyond monetary gains.

Economic espionage often leads to stolen information being used to close the technology gap between countries. The United States government estimates that between 225 and 600 billion dollars are lost annually due to economic espionage. That being said, due to the very real threat of negative stock impacts should a security breach become public knowledge, many companies affected by espionage do not report the crime to any government agencies.

Recommended Steps to Protect Your Intellectual Property

When it comes to intellectual property protection, there is no such thing as being too careful. Trade secrets can be compromised by individuals both inside and outside of your company. Because of this, it is vital that your data security program has multiple steps and precautions to better ensure that all of your confidential information remains protected.

 

Get Familiar with the Economic Espionage Act Rules and Penalties

One way to prevent intellectual property theft is to make sure that your organization is fully aware and up-to-date on all EEA rules, regulations, and penalties. Though the EEA was not intended to criminalize every theft of trade secrets, it does, however, work to recognize the increasing importance of the value of intellectual property in general. Penalties for violating EEA include up to 15 years of imprisonment with the addition of fines up to $5 million for private individuals. Businesses can face even greater fines and other penalties.

 

Train Staff on Safe Handling of Company Data

To ensure that your staff follows all requirements for secure data management, each member of your team should receive regular training on the safe handling of company data including when, how, and what to shred when the time comes as well as how to keep documents confidential while working from home or in the office. It is recommended that this type of training be done both at the beginning of the hiring process and at least once a year.

These training sessions should include discussions and presentations on how to recognize phishing attacks, what a clean desk policy is and the value of it, how to set and protect strong passwords, and how to avoid accidental data exposures. You should also go over the importance of proper document disposal and destruction for both physical and digital files. A company should also ensure that procedures are in place for staff members to anonymously report any potentially harmful or unusual behavior by other members of the organization or contractors.

 

Restrict Data Access and Install Cyber Security Safeguards

Your company can greatly reduce the risk of intellectual property theft by taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk of unauthorized individuals having access to sensitive information. Many organizations also choose to give those who have been granted access to secure files additional training so that their role in maintaining data confidentiality is clear and understood. Signed documents such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) can also work to emphasize the seriousness of keeping the company’s information confidential.

Cyber security protocols such as two-factor authentication and virtual private networks (VPNs) can round out your safeguards and guarantee the best protection possible while your data is still in use. Though as you are aware, your data does not always stay with you. Your company’s information can quickly become outdated or unusable under the right conditions and once this happens, it is crucial that you securely dispose of all of your documentation.

 

Develop a Policy for Information Storage, Retention, and Disposal

Paper documents containing private information about your company and its employees cannot be simply tossed into a dumpster once they are no longer needed. Doing so invites thieves to steal your data and use it for nefarious purposes. That is why a policy for storing and disposing of your files is necessary. All of your old files and materials should be securely shredded by a professional paper shredding service to guarantee that intellectual properties remain confidential.

Even paperless companies can benefit from services provided by a mobile shredding company. All of your passwords, files, and information are stored on the hard drive of your computer and other devices, making it especially important to dispose of these items properly. Erasing or even formatting your hard drives does not completely get rid of the data stored on them. This is where a hard drive disposal service can help. You can have your hard drives shredded by an industrial shredder on location by a mobile paper shredding company such as PROSHRED® Washington D.C.

Need Regular Document Disposal? Trust PROSHRED® Washington D.C.

If your business needs regularly scheduled onsite shredding services, whether it be for hard drives or paper files, PROSHRED® Washington D.C. has the answer. Our team of experts can tackle any sized job and will work with you to create a document destruction plan that fits your company’s unique needs. We will even provide you with a Certificate of Destruction as proof that all of your shredding was completed securely. Ready to get started? Contact us today for a free quote!

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