We live in a knowledge-based economy – where ideas are money. In fact, according to the Intellectual Property Office, the UK design industry alone is worth over £15bn a year to the nation’s coffers.
As a result, it has never been more vital for industry and individuals to protect the fruits of their intellectual labour. This includes customer information, financial or legal records, designs, written articles and records, or any number of other different types of explicit, recorded information.
In our modern digitally enabled world, this information is often stored as electronic data, which is estimated to be worth 49 per cent of an organisation’s total value – one of their biggest assets. Yet as evidenced by high-profile data breaches, even the biggest and best organised businesses are getting it wrong – and suffering as a result with organisations losing £1.75 million each on average for data breaches.
Therefore, the question is how can organisations protect their data – or their ideas? While there is no silver bullet, there are a few golden rules. Firstly, they have to understand what’s of value to them and what level of protection they have already given it. This might be a document with a copyright, a design with a patent or a confidential record that is protected by employee regulations and non-disclosure agreements.
Secondly, these organisations then need to work out how they can best manage their information and the protection they need to afford it. This needs to be under constant review taking into account the changing nature of business in terms of their IT infrastructures and processes. For example the rise of mobility, virtual technologies or outsourced services – all of which can see information and ideas being handed over to third parties or carried outside the boundaries of an organisation – could result in the loss of IP which can cost up to £79 per record lost
Technology is a double-edged sword in this sense. While it has given us almost infinity ability to create, store, back-up and discover the vast amount of digital information that is the lifeblood of businesses, it has also created a greater opportunity for that information to be lost – whether inadvertently or maliciously.
With our economic well-being heavily based on knowledge and IP, more attention needs to be paid to its protection. While much of this is up to businesses, just as they protect their physical assets they need to put in place the same measures for their ideas, regulators also have an important role to play in building structures and relevant guidance that encourage best practice.
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