In my last post discussing the value of an idea, it was argued that more attention needs to paid to understanding the value of intangible assets – information saved as digital records. A retailer wouldn’t leave its stock in an unlocked warehouse so why would – for example – an industrial designer leave plans and client details open to competitors via an unsecured USB drive or unencrypted email message?
While there are some simple steps that can be taken to protect ideas and information – including policies for employees and how they handle data and technological steps such as end-point security – there are plenty of grey areas and complications.
The key issues relate to efficiencies and value for businesses. While it’s vital for an organisation to protect its information, if by doing so it is hampered in carrying out its main purpose, there is little point in doing so.
For example, Graeme Hackland, CIO for the Lotus F1 Team, says there is no point in the team’s laptops having endpoint security if that adds valuable seconds to start-up or connection to a car’s on-board system. When drivers come into the pits, the diagnostic systems need to connect immediately. If IT security software interferes with that process and slows it down, it simply cannot be used. It needs to be unobtrusive and fit into a business process – whether in F1 or any other context.
Equally, some IP is just not worth protecting beyond a certain point. Using the F1 example again, car design and development changes so quickly that it’s not worth adding protection. Less than seven percent of a car’s design is carried over from one season to another because of new engineering developments and regulations in the sport. In the long-term, protecting historic data adds no value to the organisation and can be an avoidable cost.
Equally, in high-street fashion, as soon as an item of clothing goes on sale, there is no point in protecting the design. Others retailers will create similar garments and within a season the whole collection will be old and therefore lower commercial value. Why invest in protecting something that has such as short shelf life and is so openly in the public domain?
Further underlining this point, the 2012 Symantec State of Information Survey shows that 42 per cent of business information is duplicated. And that’s just the information they can find. That means two fifths of the intellectual property businesses may be protecting is essentially worthless – and costing businesses through the need for additional resources.
Despite this, it remains that case that more attention needs to be paid to the protection of ideas and the value they bring to an organisation in a knowledge-based economy. But in doing so, it is vital that whatever steps are taken, they support an organisation in achieving its aims. If the protection of IP – for its own sake – stops a business reaching its goals in the most efficient way or adds unnecessary costs, it simply cannot be supported.