What is Intellectual Property theft?
Owing to the fact that Intellectual Property (IP) is intangible, it is difficult to understand how it can be “stolen”. Essentially, this theft is achieved through replication or use. IP theft is the unauthorised copying of all (or any part) of a company’s protected copyright, trade mark, trade secrets or patents, with a view of commercial exploitation.
Is there any actual loss?
Yes. The IP owned by a company can very often form the most valuable asset held by that company, embodying its market goodwill, trading power or competitive advantage in an economy. Very often, this theft occurs as a result of access by employees, who may steal the IP during or after their employment.
How can companies prevent IP theft by an employee?
While this is difficult, it is certainly not impossible. Preventing IP theft is much easier than repairing the damage after the fact, and companies must take preventative steps that are proportional to the value of their IP. Being observed is a big deterrent, and employees should be informed that all computer activity is monitored and logged. Employees may be unaware of the severity of stealing IP, and an education policy may be hugely preventative.
What can you do if your IP is stolen?
At this stage, the best action to take is to find an attorney to represent you, if you don’t already have one, and have them immediately send a formal letter to the ex-employee, or whoever has stolen the IP. It is important to be thorough, and include full details of what was stolen, and the next action required of them, as well as the consequences. It is possible to contain situations of this nature, and it is important that the IP thief be made aware of the full legal consequences of what they have done, and the action that will be taken against them should they not comply.