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Failure to Protect IP (No.1 in our list of IP mistakes)

Most of us are aware and probably agree that a reasonable portion of a company’s success lies in its ability to protect its intellectual property (IP). Conversely, the failure to protect IP can have devastating effects on a company.

The potential consequences of not protecting IP are many. The most obvious consequence is that your competitors, partners, and customers may gain access to your IP and associated market potential without paying due compensation. A company could even find itself blocked from using IP it could have claimed and in unnecessary litigation if it has the wherewithal to seek a correction of the mistake.

Sometimes a failure to protect IP involves simple human error. This happens. Informed people may, for whatever reason, make mistakes. If it happens repeatedly, a review of personnel may be in order. Having the right people on the job and putting in place IP review processes for systematic capture and review of IP can reduce human error by assuring that IP gets its due consideration.

Repeated failures to protect IP can also be a symptom of other systemic problems within the IP management structure for which it may be too much to expect even the best talent to compensate. The best way to deal with this is to find and correct the underlying cause or causes of the mistake. Failure to protect IP is often a consequence of one or more other mistakes, inclusive of those that follow on our list of 33. For example:

1) Failure to recognize IP – If you do not recognize IP, then you cannot protect it.
2) Failure to recognize the right IP – If you protect the wrong IP, then you may leave the right IP exposed
3) Filing too late – If you are not first, then you may have no rights
4) Inadequate data protection measures can all lead to a failure to protect IP – Stolen IP is IP out of your control, especially if you have not yet protected it.

These mistakes often prove symptomatic of yet other problems, often beyond the traditional scope of IP management, such as a failure to adequately communicate R&D focus and strategy. Even this may itself derive from a failure at the top to adequately communicate the focus and strategy of the entire enterprise. The further upstream the root problem is, the greater its combined impact may be. If a company has not defined its direction adequately, for example, then it should be no surprise when an employee fails to recognize IP he should protect.

Failure to protect IP is number one on our list. It is a mistake that can go many layers up the chain of management, from the ways and capabilities of individuals to the entire enterprise.

(This is number 1 in our list of IP mistakes and how to avoid them.)

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