© Hudson Advisory Group, Inc., 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000. All Rights Reserved.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY and
Intellectual property, such as copyrights and trade marks, and proprietary information, such as trade secrets and patents, is owned by an individual or a business entity. Violating the copyright protection, or obtaining the trade secrets, can be detrimental to a the stability and success of a business. Copyright infringement can be general, such as citing information from a text without author and text attribution, or specific, such as illegally and willfully copying and selling compact CDs of popular songs. With regard to intellectual property issues, much of the intellectual property is available to the public. The entrepreneur with intellectual property ownership must therefore know his/her rights in terms of securing profit from said property, and be able to monitor its sale and use for compliance.
Proprietary information, on the other hand, is for the sole knowledge of its owners, and is normally not available outside the business. The proprietary information critical for business success includes company financials, tax compliance, client financials, customer lists, and pricing information, as well as trade secrets, such as R&D, formulas, and software programs. While it may be illegal for an unauthorized individual or entity to access or usurp the information, the burden remains on the owner to protect the property from theft. The extent of criminal culpability is often directly linked to evidence that the owners made serious and sustained efforts to secure the information from outside interference.
Obtaining proprietary information by competitors can provide them with valuable intelligence, for example, by knowing what bid package is being put together by the entrepreneur for winning a contract. Skillful "espionage" techniques can allow an corporate opponent or criminal entity to tap into proprietary information without the owners even being aware. Remember that, in regard to intelligence work, stealing the opponents secrets is often the second hardest task, whereas the hardest task is keep him/her from knowing that the secrets have been compromised.
Copyrights: the protection of the works
of artists and authors, giving them exclusive right to publish their works
or to determine who may so publish. The time period is usually the life
of the author plus 50 years.
Trademarks: any word, name, symbol, or device used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify his goods. Trademarks may be protected by patents or copyrights; a) register the trademark with the PTO; b) the trademark must be used properly - if it is idle for more than four years, it is considered abandoned
Safeguarding proprietary information or trade secrets:
In a competitive and dynamic marketplace environment, it is essential that a business retain its proprietary information (e.g., financial position and pricing strategies), as well as its trade secrets (e.g., product formulas) in order to maintain its competitive advantage and provide unique value-added services to its customers.
Relevant WWW sites:
The following two sites contain information relevant to patent searches and registration:
Gifis, Stephen H. Law Dictionary. New York: Barrons, 1984.
Mandell, Steve A., et. al., "Safeguarding Proprietary Information" Seminar. Vienna, VA: The Mandell Law Firm, January 22, 1996.
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