Who Owns Your Employee’s Creativity? Protect Intellectual Property in a BYOD Environment

By Vickie May.Businessman

Loss of intellectual property and potential security risks can scare business owners away from implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies, but according to Forbes, securing your network from a BYOD breach is now relatively easy and affordable for most businesses. The most effective security measures are ones that make your BYOD device into a dummy terminal.

Users simply insert a USB drive into their computer, and this device allows them to access relevant work data without downloading it to their hard drive. Other bring your own device programs like the solutions created by BlackBerry allow users to have two distinct settings on their devices, essentially giving employees the chance to have separate home and work accounts.

The Confusing Issue of Intellectual Property

Programs like the ones mentioned above are designed to draw clear lines between an employee’s work and personal space, but EcommerceTimes.com reports that the issue of intellectual property ownership may not be so cut and dry, regardless of the programs that have been designed to separate work and home computing.

When an employee designs a piece of artwork, writes a brochure or copyrights a work using their employer’s office equipment and space, the intellectual property ownership is typically awarded to the employer. However, this determination is not as simple when employees are working 24/7, creating ideas at home, and putting them on their own devices. The issue gets even more complicated when you consider that many employers pay for their employee’s BYOD devices.

Protecting Intellectual Property

Whether you are a creative employee or the employer who is footing the bill for a BYOD device, establish clear expectations about who owns your intellectual property. Before allowing any of your employees to set foot in your office with their own devices, draft a comprehensive policy that spells out your requirements for security software, encryption, passwords and intellectual property ownership.

Similarly, before bringing your own device to work, sign one of these agreements, and ask your boss important questions. Who will pay to fix your device if it stops working while you are on the job? Can you ever create and own intellectual property on that device? The clearer you and your employer are about your expectations, the easier it will be to avoid difficulties down the road.

Intellectual Property Infringement

The number of patent lawsuits stayed stable for the first decade of 2000, but those numbers jumped by a third between 2010 and 2011, according to the U.S.. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Whether or not this drastic jump was affected by the spread of BYOD policies is still unclear, but stakeholders who were interviewed by the GAO cited a lack of clear intellectual property rights as the top reason for the increase in lawsuits.

The other reasons cited for the increase in patent lawsuits involved an increase in the perceived importance of patents as well as the potential for large monetary awards. Without a clear policy in place, companies with BYOD policies set themselves up for potential financial ruin, but with a few deftly written expectations and a signed BYOD contract, you protect yourself and your intellectual property.


This post was provided by Vickie May. Vickie blogs about all things computers, mobile and technology in general.

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