When ideas and concepts are digitized, protecting intellectual property from copying, leaks and outright IP violation is a whole new ballgame.

With more businesses rapidly digitalizing, the advantage of early adopters is starting to diminish. In the new playing field, in order for any corporation to maintain an edge, owning and controlling intellectual property (IP) is still key.

The contribution of IP towards countries’ economies is significant. Dozens of industries rely on the adequate enforcement of their patents, trademarks and copyrights; consumers also bank on such IP to be ensured that their purchases are safe, guaranteed products.

Therefore, IP protection not only secures businesses’ intangible assets but also enables them to remain competitive while nurturing a safe environment for innovation to thrive. 

IP vulnerabilities in the digital age

While digitalization benefits businesses, it also renders businesses more vulnerable to IP theft.

In their digital transformation journey, as data is turned digital and moved into the Cloud or onto remote servers, it is critical that businesses fully understand the value of their IP assets and ensure adequate protection for their assets.

For example, ensuring that their IP is protected before disclosing it to partners, is crucial to every corporation. Monopoly of their trade secrets and marketable information enables businesses to expand their market presence and, at the same time, provides businesses with returns on investment in research and development (R&D) while encouraging further innovation. 

Last year, according to Brand Finance, intangible assets value hit an all-time of US$65.7tn, reflecting a global trend where enterprise value is increasingly found in intangible assets, including IPs. Given the fast growing value of intangible assets, businesses have to ensure that their intangible assets are adequately protected, managed and used in order to drive business growth.

In order for businesses and individuals to fully reap the benefits of innovation, robust protection and strategic management of IP is necessary. It is also important to increase scrutiny of the laws that various countries have in place to protect IP rights.

Countries, on their part, need robust IP laws and enforcement measures to drive economic growth. Regular reviews of their IP laws help to ensure that they remain technologically relevant and attractive to businesses looking to expand into the country. 

Identifying IP risks and mitigation measures

Even as countries across the region put in place robust laws to protect IP, businesses must also actively take steps to identify IP-related risks and play their part in ensuring adequate protection.

Risks to IP have often been associated with technology transfer, which is dependent on the type of IP being transferred and the form of collaboration planned.

In order to mitigate these risks, businesses must:

  • first analyze and identify potential risks, then include the necessary clauses to safeguard against these risks and prevent IP violation.
  • enshrine confidentiality clauses or non-disclosure agreements formally to identify both existing IPs and IPs that would arise in the future, along with clauses that deal with ownership of potential movements.
  • ensure that their contracts with their business partners will allow local enforcement methods to stop the sources of IP violations, such that the need to revert to the EU legislation or systems of arbitration will not be necessary .
  • not only rely on contractual clauses, but also implement IP protection technology as an additional safeguard, to minimize data breach risks and risks from human error. Researchers from Stanford University have previously found that 88% of all data breaches could be attributed to an employee mistake.

IP protection technology can utilize technologies such as blockchain, encryption and privileged access management to protect trade secrets like designs and CAD data from unauthorized access while providing legal protection—enabling businesses to avoid a long, legal contracting process, and most importantly: still allowing for collaboration, secure sharing and asset tracking.

With the implementation of IP protection technologies, businesses can ensure adequate protection of their IP, even within countries that may not have robust IP laws in place.

Through the aforementioned measures, businesses can build a safe environment for innovation and competitiveness.