A key sits atop a tree stump.Labor disruptions, whether caused by strikes or natural disasters, can involve quite a bit of change. They require companies to implement new measures on a level that is quite sudden. During such transitions, it’s important that these organizations not only move to ensure continuation of operations, but that they also protect any information that’s vital to long-term success. So when the question of how to protect intellectual property during labor disruptions, what do you do?

First of all, it’s important to understand what represents your company’s intellectual property. While you might generally think of an invention, i.e. a machine that’s been trademarked, intellectual property at a business can include particular technical and manufacturing processes that are necessary to creating your products, and/or providing for your services. Without a doubt, intellectual property protection measures are absolutely critical during labor disruptions.

What are trade secrets? 

Unlike other forms of intellectual property, trade secrets represent things that give your business a competitive advantage, but aren’t necessarily filed to be protected under law through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trade secret protection can be ensured through confidentiality agreements (as long as they’re well protected and don’t leak).

How Do You Protect These Things?
Whether you choose to protect your business’s vital information through a trademark, copyright or patent, or through what’s considered a trade secret protection program, it’s vital to devise a protection plan – particularly when you’re contracting temp employees. In such instances, these contractors may quickly move on to other companies, so it’s important that they not share any secrets that could cause you to lose any advantage over industry competitors.

Know Your Intellectual Property
What vital processes or goods constitute your company’s intellectual property? Make a list.

Implement Confidentiality Agreements
Confidentiality agreements, otherwise known as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), can extend to cover your business’s intellectual property, and have the employee/contractor agree that they will not share particular company secrets.

Safeguard Your Intellectual Property
Do you have IT security in place that properly shields IP information from contractors or employees who do not need to know it? For example, is IP data available in a cloud file that is accessible to everyone, or just the required few?

Ensure You Have Backup Programming
Make sure you’ve backed up your programming/files, so in case you lose important data, you can easily retrieve it again. Otherwise, you could lose your intellectual property for good in the instance of a crash.

Establish What IP Is
Help employees/contractors learn what constitutes your company’s intellectual property. This might include taking a measure as simple as labeling machines/documents.

Make IP Rules Clear
Giving team members confidentiality agreements to sign is one thing, but people tend to skim documents and sign without much thought. Talk about IP verbally and allow team members to ask any questions they might have.

As we mentioned earlier, labor disruptions have a tendency to require rapid change within a company. In such critical moments, it’s necessary to have proper IP protocols in place from the get-go. During disruptions, this can help make any required transitions as seamless as possible. For more ideas on how to manage temp workforces, read our other post: Adapting a Temp Workforce to Business-Specific Needs: What to Focus On.