Data theft, hacker attacks, viruses and trojans – cyber-attacks have been increasing for years now and have become a familiar phenomenon in our society. But although attacks are getting more frequent, many companies are still not realistic in their assessment of the risks. According to the Deloitte Cyber Security Report 2018, 60 per cent of managers think there’s only a small risk that their company could suffer serious losses from a hacker attack. As such, most firms’ self-assessment doesn’t correspond fully with the actual danger levels, so they don’t implement enough precautions against the various threats.
As the old adage says, knowledge is the key to success – and confidential information, along with intellectual property (IP), is a company’s most valuable asset. Although innovation and creativity are resources that are difficult to measure, these are exactly the things that give companies an immediate competitive advantage and have a significant influence on the firm’s value. And if they fall into the wrong hands, they can do enormous damage to the business.
Information needing protection
A company’s intellectual property and know-how generally includes patents, brands, models and copyrights as well as trade secrets. These are what the company must protect. From the legal perspective, however, this protection may vary. While patents are granted for technical inventions and normally last a maximum of twenty years, copyrights are generated automatically when an intellectual or artistic work, such as scientific literature, software or music, is created. The protection lasts for the copyright owner’s lifetime and, in many European countries, up to 70 years after his or her death.
In comparison, in several European countries there has been a lack of explicit legal regulations protecting a company’s trade secrets – in other words, strategically valuable information like production processes, customer lists and formulations as well as research content, acquisition plans and negotiating positions. However, that has now changed with the EU’s Directive on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets), adopted in June 2016. For the first time, we now have a concrete definition what comprises a trade secret and how it should be protected. The UK implemented the Trade Secrets Regulation in June 2018 and Germany’s trade secret law (Geschäftsgeheimnisgesetz) came into effect in April 2019. Austria has transferred the directive into national law and amended its own law against unfair competition (UWG).
Professional IP management
The protection of intellectual property is especially important when communications are involved. This is why companies should safeguard the information flow against theft, as well as unauthorised access and copying, throughout the value chain.
This can be achieved with professional IP management that gives the best possible protection for intellectual property while ensuring ease of use and benefits for the company. Protection should never hinder the information flow underpinning business processes.
Check out our new e-book to learn more about the concrete measures you can implement within an effective IP management initiative; which company departments have the strongest requirement for secure information sharing; and how the EU’s directive helps companies protect their trade secrets.