Business Law & Compliance

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Mid-sized businesses compromise intellectual property

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Are your corporate secrets safe? Apparently they are for less than half of you. Only 41 per cent of mid-sized businesses across Europe have plans in place to protect intellectual property, reveals research by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Iron Mountain.

The global IP market is worth an estimated £115bn a year, and studies show that proprietary information and trade secrets represent two thirds of an organisation’s value. So, why the casual attitude?

Some 54 per cent of respondents believed that safeguarding customer, employee, business and financial information was much more important than protecting intellectual property. The reason is that information held in trust, such as customer and employee records, is subject to strict compliance laws.

For Christian Toon, head of information risk at Iron Mountain Europe, these results cry out for a change in attitude. Companies need to develop a culture of Corporate Information Responsibility, he says: “A cultural shift is needed to engage all employees in the protection of the organisation’s information assets.”

“Companies quite rightly pay attention to preventing the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive customer or employee information, but just imagine what could happen if valuable company secrets such as patents, product designs, or go-to-market strategies fell into the hands of a rival.”

Of the four industry sectors analysed, the IP-intensive pharmaceutical sector performed the worst, with less than a third including intellectual property and corporate secrets in their information risk management plans. The financial services, legal, manufacturing and insurance sectors performed only slightly better.

The study also revealed that one in four mid-sized European companies do not run background checks on new employees – who can, unfortunately, present a great risk.

The research surveyed senior managers at 600 leading European businesses with between 250 and 2,500 employees. How are you assessing your information risk?  

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