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Protecting against intellectual property theft

To protect against intellectual property (IP) theft, companies need to have proper firewalls in place and limit access to employees who need it to do their jobs, says Jim Downs, founding partner and managing director of MKD International Inc.

“If a company owns intellectual property such as patents, they need to ensure they are secured in the best way possible,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “Maybe that entails placing them in an old-fashioned safe instead of putting the information on a computer system, which can be hacked.”

Sometimes, a company's greatest asset is stored on a hard drive, Downs says.

Corporations, small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as IP law firms retain MKD after someone gains access to their computer network and steals information, or to help employ measures to mitigate the risk of such theft, he says.

“These people use a tracker or some other key-logger device to get into the system without authorization," he says. 

“Other times, employees of the company help facilitate the theft of intellectual property. Businesses really need to think about putting measures in place to lessen the risk of that kind of theft.”

It’s critical to have proper firewalls in the system to control access and to prevent a third-party hack, Downs says.

“There are no absolutes, no sure-fire way to prevent this 100 per cent of the time, but you have to do the best you can to make it difficult for the bad guys to hack into the system,” he says. “It’s important to upgrade computer security systems all the time.

“Companies have to control access even among employees. Managers have to ask, ‘who should have access to that intellectual property information?’ Not everyone ought to have complete access to the information. You want to limit employee access to what they require to do their jobs.”

Often, it’s a company that holds a patent(s) for certain products or processes, or unique knowledge of a particular procedure, that are most at risk, Downs notes.

MKD was retained in the past by a drug manufacturer to investigate after a knock-off of one of its products appeared in the marketplace, Downs explains.

“This company owned the worldwide patent for the major component of a particular well-known drug at the time,” Downs says. “The knock-off was being distributed illegally. We had to track down the knock-off and try to determine who was manufacturing it so that it could be used in civil litigation.”

MKD contracts out some of this specialized analytical computer work to a digital forensics firm to determine whether the systems have been breached, Downs says.

“From there, you try to determine how to stop it from happening again by putting in the proper security measures,” he says.  

"Companies often perform regular audits of their computer systems to see which employees have access to what, and to detect any irregularities. Sometimes businesses will announce to employees they are performing these audits and this helps to keep everybody honest.”

With hackers located all around the world, it's critical that companies take adequate precautions to protect what's stored on their system, Downs says. 

"You have to create a safeguard process," he says. 

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