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Protecting IP rights when staff leave

If your organisation employs staff, it’s a sure bet that at some point in the future they will choose to leave. When they do, how can you ensure that the company’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and other sensitive information are protected?
 
As with many things in life, prevention is preferable to cure, so plan for leavers early – in fact, plan for it at the appointment stage. Broadly speaking (under UK law) where an employee creates IP in the workplace in the course of their normal employment duties, the rights automatically vest in the employer.  To maximise protection, IPR ownership should also be explicitly addressed in employment contracts, along with contractual obligations to not disclose confidential information and trade secrets both during and after employment. The employment contract can also be used to obtain the author’s waiver of any moral rights which may exist in Copyright works they create as part of their employment. Employment contracts should also include explicit requirements for employees to return and/or delete all confidential information on termination of their employment or at any time if requested by the company. This should include both the return of physical documents and anything stored electronically. 
 
During the period of employment and as a matter of good practice to ensure there is no doubt over what information is confidential or a trade secret, employers should highlight such information by labelling it clearly.
 
Many companies use a leaver “check list” – ensure this specifically addresses IP, confidential information and trade secrets, and that all information identified is catalogued, and stored in an accessible form and manner. Categories include:
  • Processes & production information, know-how & previously attempted, but flawed techniques or 'blind alleys' that did not achieve their intended results (“negative know-how”)
  • Machines & manufacturing information
  • Customer lists & confidential customer information, reports & analyses
  • Operation & design manuals
  • Designs, drawings, diagrams & artwork
  • Ideas & plans
  • Technology information
  • Formulas & calculations
  • Compounds
  • Prototypes
  • Laboratory notebooks & experiments
  • Experimental, analytical & design data
  • Vendor & supplier information
  • R&D information, reports, know-how & negative know-how
  • Cost, price, profit, loss & margins data, reports & analyses
  • Quality control information, procedures, manuals & records
  • Maintenance know-how & negative know-how
  • Sales & marketing information, reports, forecasts & plans, advertising materials
  • Financial information, documents, budgets & forecasts
  • Computer printouts, operating reports
  • Administrative & managerial information, key decision makers, internal organisation
  • Computer software & source code
  • Creative individual works & collaborative works

Decisions, Decisions

Is decision making and the process that entails a marker for success in your company? 

I've been examining the SSC process  recently as we are expanding and I'm wanting to make sure that we continue to do things in the best possible way, so for various reasons I've been comparing internal SSC ways to those of other organisations.

I'm intrigued.
The key questions appear to be :
Do all decisions need to be handled the same?
At what stage of company development should there be delegation and budget responsibility.?
How can you define a strategic decision and who should be involved in that?

All organisations need to work those answers out for themselves and keep them under review.

But what when it goes wrong? What can that tell you as a company about where you are at?
And what does it communicate, perhaps subtley to clients and the outside world?

Different topics require different levels of consideration. Sales issues require a secure, determined and speedy decision making process. Being unable to make the decision about what to do, taking weeks over a simple binary choice could indicate that you are reticent or unsure of your product and how to approach your market. Or it could tell you that your sales process isn't flexible enough and needs review.
 
Other areas, such as the decision to recruit new staff need lengthier consideration, and the decision to form a partnership to co-create a new product needs weighty and deep planning, complete with fact-finding and should not be rushed.

Decisions which require face-2-face meetings of senior staff can be useful, but in busy small companies are not always possible. Other mechanisms need to be employed - Skype, email conversations. If a decision which should be taken in a single quick conversation, especially if that decision has been promised to an external partner or potential customer, takes more than 48hours you may have a problem. If it takes multiple weeks, then you definitely do. SSC has a system where outstanding issues are flagged and raised to the top of the "to do" chart on a weekly basis. It works for us, we have 6 people across 5 locations and we regulary use skype discussions to get decisions made and action plans formed. I wonder if we had a central office would we rely more on face-2-face and would that slow us down?
 

How To Internationalise your Business

How to….. internationalise and grow your business
In light of the new set of How To…… Business JUMPSTART courses, “How To” questions have been on our minds.
How To Internationalise seems to be a big one that weighs heavy on many SMEs in the EU, especially those that are only used to do business only inside their own country or in their own language. The extra resources and skills required can be daunting to SMEs especially when it comes to expanding their networks and doing the groundwork for sales that can only come further into the future.
 
I came across this article the EU report “INTERNATIONALISATION OF SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES 2015” according to which SMEs see that some main barriers to exporting are:
·         identifying business partners abroad is too difficult,
·         knowing where to find information about the potential market,
·         not knowing the rules,
·         the company does not have the specialised staff to deal with exports, or that
·         they lack the language skills to deal with foreign countries.
 
Almost one third of the SMEs think that support for finding business partners and networking would help them to internationalise, but “how to” achieve that…..?
 
Although SMEs are the backbone of the EU economy representing 99% of European businesses, and providing 85% of all new jobs, only 30% of SMEs have exported to another EU country, while 20% have exported to a non-EU country. However, 36% of the SMEs have imported from another EU country, while 19% have imported from a non-EU country. There is a large domination of small companies selling only to others in their own local geography.
 
Today markets are global and full of opportunities. Therefore, internationalisation of a SME plays an extremely important role when the company wants to boost the growth of its business and for companies working with complex scientific and technology products, an absolute necessity to ensure survival.
It takes a leap of faith. It takes confidence in the global appeal of the products and services – helpful if this is backed up by concrete market research and actual market evidence such as letters of intent – but even that takes looking beyond your own borders.
 
Firstly, there is a need for a strategy – a plan to create the market, or join the existing international market.  SMEs do not need to have all the expertise internally in their companies, but they can outsource activities including internationalisation activities. It is possible to work with carefully selected, trusted groups, such as SSC, to bridge the gap to success whilst you are gaining those skills and the confidence to go forwards alone.