It seems like it should be easy to prove that your company owns its intellectual property (IP)—but these days, it can be anything but.
That’s what we’re talking about today in the second post of a three-part blog series about how companies can protect their IP data. Our first post gave some background information about what IP is and why it’s critical for businesses. Today, we’ll explain where the data proving IP ownership lives and why it’s so challenging to access and use.
Let’s jump right in.
Where Is IP Data Located Today?
Gone are the days when IP data existed exclusively in hard-copy notebooks, company computers, or local servers. With the rise of a global remote workforce, developers scattered across the globe are discussing ideas and reviewing results with their colleagues. However, they’re no longer having those conversations face-to-face in an office or lab—those discussions have moved online.
We’re not talking about old-school online conversations that unfold exclusively in a single app like email. Instead, today’s development communications occur in a wide variety of SaaS-based collaboration tools, including:
- chat applications like Slack or Microsoft Teams,
- ticket management software like Jira or Confluence,
- project management platforms like Asana or Trello, and
- virtual whiteboard tools like Lucidchart or FigJam.
As an idea or project develops, discussions about it may migrate from one location to another. Perhaps the initial spark of an idea arose during a Slack conversation before a team member sketched out a few early conceptual drawings on a virtual whiteboard. In the later stages of product development, the team tracked its tasks and notes through the Monday project management system and worked out bugs using Jira.
Suppose a conflict arises about the ownership of a design, concept, or product. In that case, the company can’t necessarily rely on a single platform or software system to prove that its employees came up with the idea first. That means companies must master data management across numerous web-based collaboration tools that store data in different formats across multiple cloud locations.
And that’s not the only thing that makes modern IP data management challenging.
Why Is IP Data So Hard to Manage?
Companies often don’t fully understand where the data that could prove their ownership of IP resides. Not only is that data all over the place, but different teams might not use the same systems to develop, discuss, test, and manage their ideas. One group may keep all its tickets in Zendesk, while another uses HubSpot. Meanwhile, depending on the project, a third group alternates between Freshdesk and Confluence.
It would be one thing if IT installed these tools locally. Then, IT could look at team members’ computers to see which programs were installed and frequently accessed. But these modern solutions are entirely web-based, so there’s no software installation to fall back on.
Then there’s the reality that these productivity and project development SaaS applications were not designed with data preservation for IP litigation in mind. Therefore, most systems have woefully insufficient tools for extracting or exporting data.
And while companies routinely consider the possibility of litigation and the need to manage data for ediscovery, they don’t spend as much time thinking about where their IP is developed or how they’d prove ownership of it.
It’s relatively easy to spot IP theft when an employee quits and immediately forms their own company, which happens to be launching a product that’s suspiciously similar to the one you’ve been developing. But often, IP theft follows a slower, less clear path—and there may not be much time to respond when the original owner realizes what’s happened. It can take a while for a company to recognize that its IP was stolen or misappropriated.
As a result, companies can end up blindsided by IP theft, scrambling to track down their data before another company claims an idea or design as their own.
To spot IP infringement sooner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends that companies “consistently monitor industry competitors” to ensure that they’re not using your ideas.
So, how can companies start proactively safeguarding the data that establishes their critical IP ownership? We’ll talk about that in the third and final blog in this series.
Eager to find out right now? We’ve got you covered! Check out Protecting Your Intellectual Property: A Guide to Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset to learn more. Or visit hanzo.co to see how we can help you start protecting your IP today.