Protecting intellecutal property (IP) has been an issue since the dawn of modern industry. Debates rage over who it was that actually invented the radio, and many other products and technologies. Somewhere out there, Al Gore is probably still laying claim to this Internet thingy. Let's take it one step further: Just a small bit of research shows that Xerox actually had the original designs for the mouse as a user interface and with it, the first personal computer to be sold for home use. Then, they gave a free tour of their facilities to some guy named Steve Jobs...D'Oh!
Now, certainly what Steve Jobs did really isn't anything amounting to the theft of IP. All he really did was realize how smart everybody was that was working on the project for something called the Xerox Alto and lured them all away to work for him instead. The point is, however, if your business has a patent or some other form of intellectual property, it is absolutely mandatory to your survival within the industry to protect that idea or service with everything you have.
The global marketplace is largely responsible for what appears to be somewhat of a boon in IP theft. It's tough for governing agencies like the International Trade Administration to really police it because it's so wide spread. In fact, that very organization cites that particularly savvy worldwide property pirates are getting better and better at finding the loopholes in patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office estimates that IP criminals are now successfully diverting over $250 billion away from American industries each year. Needless to say, small businesses just can't afford to be a part of this. Whereas a large corporation may be able to shrug off a significant portion of this total, small businesses don't have that same wiggle room, shall we say?
A good rule of thumb is to just never discuss any details about the IP of your company with anyone. No matter how proud you are and how badly you want to brag about the latest and greatest idea that's going to change the world...don't. Other than that, there's not really an all-encompassing rule to follow for every situation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office do offer some noteworthy seminars and have good information on their websites about how to protect the IP of your company.
In conclusion, stay away from the free tours to really, super smart, super ambitious, and innovative businessmen like what may have happened several decades ago in Silicon Valley. But more importantly, beware of the more global underground that lies in wait of whatever the pride of your organization promises to be the next big thing.
"Traklight" is an innovative company that is designed to help you to identify, protect, and leverage your ideas for your startup, invention, or business. Contact us today for more information. We would love the chance to speak with you!