Do Your Employees Understand What It Means to Protect Intellectual Property?

    

Do Your Employees Understand What It Means to Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) theft is expensive for American companies—as much as $600 billion is lost yearly. Although much of this loss can be attributed to foreign counterfeiters and cheap knockoffs, it’s not just fake handbags; some theft involves deep proprietary information, such as trade secrets, non-retail patents, and commercial processes.

And though the bad guys are out there trying to steal this info, some of it isn’t being stolen—it’s being accidentally exposed by rank-and-file employees.

True Office Learning data shows concerning evidence that employees struggle to understand what IP even is. This is a serious matter for organizations, but one that can be mitigated with a commitment to best practices and compliance training.

Our Data Says …

We’re all about data at True Office Learning, and that extends to the data generated by millions of people, across a wide range of industries, who have taken our courses over the years. The decisions users make in response to our real-world scenarios reveal concrete trends on what knowledge employees bring to the course and where the universal gaps are.

For our intellectual property module, users overall make the correct decision on scenarios 86 percent of the time. That’s not a terrible number compared with some other compliance areas that people struggle with, but it’s low enough that organizations should be concerned that employees may not inherently know as much as they should about IP.

We also break down our course data by categories, and the results are even more telling:

  • Scenarios about responding to intellectual property concerns score high, with 94 percent of users making the correct decision.
  • Scenarios about respecting intellectual property—in other words, striving to protect IP—garner correct decisions 89 percent of the time.
  • Scenarios challenging employees to identify what constitutes intellectual property come in at just 77 percent.

A quick analysis of these numbers suggests that employees know how important intellectual property is and why safeguarding it must be a priority, but they aren’t always sure what IP is—and that should be a red flag for organizations and their compliance departments.

The Urgency to Protect IP

Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are obvious intellectual property that must be protected, and whose theft is usually cut-and-dried—for example, a counterfeiter making pirated copies of a movie on DVD. However, not all IP is so apparent or clearly defined. Trade secrets and best practices are just as valuable to organizations and can be just as damaging if obtained by competitors.

Legal recourse is a potential solution for stolen IP, but the burden of proof can be difficult when a trade secret or best practice is usurped. Furthermore, civil actions are messy, expensive, and time-consuming—and by the time they are resolved, the damage often is already done. A better strategy is to do everything possible to protect IP before it is compromised.

Respecting IP is a two-way street—your organization can find itself in legal and reputational trouble for using others’ intellectual property without authorization. Although most companies aren’t so brazen as to actively plot to steal rivals’ secrets, individual employees may cross the line, either on purpose or inadvertently. Properly educating employees about IP helps them make smart and ethical choices about protected business information.

The Training Advantage

Some lost IP is the simple result of employee carelessness: a misspoken conversation, a lost smartphone, an impulsive reply to an email. However, other incidents occur because of a basic lack of understanding about intellectual property—True Office Learning data confirms that. 

Quality online training can address both problem areas by teaching:

  • What IP is and how to recognize it
  • Why protecting IP is critical
  • Best practices to protect IP
  • What to do when there’s a problem

The best IP compliance training solutions deliver deep learning—a sort of muscle memory that helps employees more instinctively recognize intellectual property and make smart decisions when an IP concern arises.

Moreover, advanced  training uses relevant scenarios to immerse employees in the experience. This is a big step up from simply throwing a bunch of rules and regulations at users and hoping they absorb something … anything. Employees experience IP situations they might encounter in their everyday responsibilities, then apply what they’ve learned, every day, as needed.

Correlating the Data

The data we presented earlier in this article shows the power of compliance training, and though organizations won’t have millions of employees to draw from like we do, they still can arrive at powerful conclusions from the metrics online training yields. Benchmarks can be established, progress charted, and even future problems predicted and addressed, all from the data.

That said, other data can show the effectiveness of training—specifically, the number of IP incidents that occur after you institute a training program. This bottom-line measurement can confirm that employees are learning and show that your organization’s secrets are, ultimately, safer.

Compliance Training Program Guide

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