A company is made up of its employees. They are the people that carry out the day-to-day affairs. While interacting with third parties with your intellectual property, it is important that all your employees know how much disclosure is safe, and when to get a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Prepare a code of conduct for all employees to follow so they do not inadvertently disclose or infringe IP.
A code of conduct is a compilation of rules that determine what behavior is appropriate and that which is not. Consequences of violating the code are subjective based on the infraction, and could range from a "slap on the wrist" to termination. Preservation of intellectual property is important and the gravity of this should be made apparent. Equating failing to protect IP assets with borrowing a company stapler will devalue the importance of the former and employees may not be as vigilant and aware as they are needed to be. Without being overtly bleak, clearly state the consequences and what damage the business is liable to suffer.
The code of conduct should include the nature of proprietary information, what it is, and their duty to protect it. Provide employees with an avenue to discuss any doubts they may have regarding the nature of any company information. Having someone on staff to discuss queries is important; directing them to a compliance officer is a good idea. Alternatively, if not in person, an external contact can be provided that will cater to all IP concerns.
Furthermore, the importance of protecting the confidential information of not only the business but also customers should also be included. Respecting IP of third parties is both the right thing to do and also saves the business from avoidable infringement suits. An infringement suit is a drain on resources and can set back growth and scaling abilities of a business. Additionally, if seeking investment, an ongoing legal dispute is a major no-no for investors. Creating a checklist of Dos and Don’ts and a table of what all materials constitute IP will help simplify things for the employees. For the first couple of months have employees use a checklist while interacting with clients so they can imbibe the principles.
Provide educational material to further increase awareness regarding the importance of IP protection and how it affects the business and hence them as well. The Traklight Resource Center and blog has abundant literature on all things IP, including discussion both broad and specific.
The next step to maximize your IP efficiency is Limiting Access. For more information about protecting your IP check out Traklight's resources and fill out the risk quiz today.