Last Updated on September 30, 2018
You scroll through InspirationFeed, and (surprise, surprise) you get inspired.
Yet, your great idea can’t be executed all at once, and while you are working on it, millions of others are desperate to steal and profit from your idea before you have the chance to develop it fully.
If you were a multi-national corporation, you could lock down your ideas with massive firewalls, multi-factor authentication, encryption, and more – and as an individual, you can and should do the same.
Your intellectual property has value, perhaps as much value as your financial information.
Thus, you should learn how to protect your IP thoroughly before, during, and after development and publication.
This guide can help you keep your IP safe from prying eyes and itchy fingers.
Understand Your Intellectual Property
There are two primary types of IP: industrial property and copyright. The former includes IP like invention patents, trademarks, and industrial designs, while the latter involves primarily art, such as novels, poems, plays, music, drawings, photographs, architectural designs, and webpages.
There are rights ascribed to you and your IP depending on what type it is. Strictly speaking, IP theft is only prosecutable if your IP falls under one of the following categories:
- Patents. These prevent anyone else from manufacturing or marketing your tangible products unless they have a license to do so.
- Trademarks. Your trademarks cannot be used or copied by anyone else without your permission. These include names, phrases, sounds, symbols – almost anything associated with your brand.
- Copyright. It is important to note that this protects your expression of your idea, but not the idea itself. You have the right to manipulate your copyrighted work – reproduce it, make derivatives, sell, or display the work – but others can be inspired by your work without repercussions.
- Trade secrets. Covered by state rather than federal law, trade secrets comprise devices, data, or formulas that provide an edge over your competition and that have been kept secret.
You need to know where you are storing your IP, and as importantly, people you work with or around need to understand the importance of your IP.
You shouldn’t be afraid to place labels in appropriate places to warn others of protections on the items or information stored within.
This seemingly small act can be a major benefit if you ever go to court; it proves that you took measures to inform others of your ownership of the IP.
If you don’t want your IP tampered with, labels aren’t enough.
You need to build walls around your IP – physically and digitally. Ideally, you should keep your IP stashed somewhere that others cannot physically reach it, and you should install Trend Micro premium security software on all devices connected to your IP.
The more you can limit access to your IP, the safer it will be.
Understand Your Protection
Even after you install security software, you should spend time getting to know the tools now available to you. If you settle for anything less than premium protection, you might be missing out on valuable defenses that you should acquire elsewhere.
For example, data loss prevention (DLP) tools locate sensitive information on your devices and monitor how they are used; if someone accesses your IP without your permission, you can know right away thanks to DLP.
You should feel confident contacting your security provider’s customer service with any questions and concerns about your security package.
Blindly installing security software isn’t a bad first step toward protecting your IP, but understanding different types of protection is a smarter long-term strategy for more thorough security.
You should also become familiar with ways you might weaken your security; humans are by far the most common cause of data breaches and leaks, so you must seek out training to help you avoid terrible mistakes that jeopardize your IP.
Get the Big Picture
Often, IP theft occurs in bits and pieces – not a big, flashy attack.
While it might be easy to explain away small instances of insecurity, those instances can add up into a full-fledged loss.
Organizations often have trouble recognizing IP theft because different departments recognize and explain away odd occurrences without communicating: The IT department notices an alert from an intrusion detection system, the night security guard sees someone walking out with important documents, etc.
Fortunately, as an individual, you should have full awareness of all goings-on with your IP, and by connecting the dots, you can recognize theft before it is complete.