Protecting IP In The Workplace…Tackling The Problem From The Inside!

Michael D. Moberly   January 15, 2010

In a 2008, UK-based study titled ‘The Hidden Marketplace’ it was reported, to no particular surprise, that there’s quite strong agreement among company management teams that intellectual property  and probably intangible assets as well, are (1.) valuable assets, that, (2.) warrant protection.  

A reality though, as reported in the study, again, no surprise here, is that those dual perspectives of value and protection, are more reflective of managerial aspirations than reality.  That is, management teams seldom translate (execute) their espoused perspectives about IP into concrete actions such as (a.) registering their IP, (b.) engaging in employee IP awareness training, and/or (c.) pursuing – taking action against (internal, external) IP infringers.

Admittedly, this (study) research project focused predominatly on the demand side – consumptive aspects of the larger counterfeit market.  Specifically, the research sought to get a better picture of what is happening in those so-called ‘hidden marketplaces’, i.e., places of employment wherein employees routinely purchase counterfeit and/or pirated goods.  A very worthy objective for the principle investigators of this study (as an outgrowth of the project as whole) was to develop relevant tools and assistance for employers and enforcement agencies to help address the (IP theft-infringement) problem from the inside.

This study also examined three (other) issues relevant to the principles of the Business IP and Intangible Asset blog, i.e.,

1. employee attitudes regarding the value of IP

2.  a company’s (management team) approach to protecting its own IP, and

3. what levels of awareness exist among employers – management teams about the problems associated with IP theft in their workplace. 

These issues, in my view, would be better framed in a normative context, i.e., (a.) what should management team attitudes be about protecting their company’s IP, and (b.) what is the necessary (appropriate) level of awareness management teams should possess regarding IP protection to effectively benefit their company?

The answer to these questions lie in management team recognition that it’s quite likely, 65+% of their company’s value, sources of revenue, and building blocks for future wealth creation and sustainability are directly related to (their) intangible assets and IP.  Underpinning that recognition is management teams’ ability and committment for sustaining (managing) control, use, ownership, and monitoring the value and materiality of its IP and intangible assets.  Absent those requisites, its unlikely progress will occur!

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