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Intellectual Property and Confidential Operating Manual Challenges

March 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 149

In this day and age where the average employee only works at a company for 2 to 3 years, and then goes and seeks other employment, or unfortunately due to the changes in the business cycle, or disruptive technologies in the industry, the company lets them go. Because of this they take a lot of intellectual capital with them. They take their knowledge, know-how, all their training, observations, and experiences and go to the next company. Often that other company turns out to be a competitor, or a vendor in the industry working with competitors.

Suffice it to say, "loose lips sink ships," and the amount of intellectual capital that a company loses due to the turnover in employees is rather significant. When a company cuts staff, they are looking for increasing shareholder's equity, profits, and trimming the fat, reducing expenses temporarily to ensure that their stock price has decent performance, and they meet their numbers for the next quarter.

It gets even worse when it comes to confidential operations manuals. These days, more and more companies are allowing employees to have personal tech devices, and downloading employee manuals, and operations manuals, even technical manuals onto tablet computers. This proprietary information is paramount to the company's success, and if the competition has that same information it makes it harder to compete in the marketplace.

As a former franchisor, I dealt with this all the time - if a franchisee was terminated, if their franchise term expired, and they didn't renew, they were compelled in the franchise agreement to return the confidential operations manual. Unfortunately, as more and more things became digital, the concept of them returning those digital files are rather laughable. After all, they could've merely copy them or print them out, and then send you back the original files, and they still had those confidential operations manuals. Do you see the problem?

Yes, there is specific and specialty software which can digitally lock company manuals, but I would ask you how many companies really used DRM software to do that? Not that many, and even that software can be broken into, it happens all the time with blockbuster novelists, and those who steal their work, violate copyright law, and sell it through mass distribution - by then it's too late.

Is there any way to protect this intellectual property, if these sorts of things are going on day in and day out? The answer is probably not. However a fast-moving company probably modifies its manuals quite often, and therefore the former employees have the older versions, the ones which are not being used anymore. If a company stays fast on their feet, they can stay ahead of it all, but I would submit to you that in the end it causes a lot of sleepless nights for those in charge of protecting this proprietary information. Please consider all this and think on.

Lance Winslow has launched a new provocative series of eBooks on information and Digital Internet Challenges. Lance Winslow is a retired Founder of a Nationwide Franchise Chain, and now runs the Online Think Tank;

Source: EzineArticles
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