Be Proactive About Intellectual Property Protection

The wake of SOPA debates (and protest) has reignited interest in intellectual property. Do you know how to protect yours?

As technology continues to improve, thieves are finding new and more creative ways to steal data and digital property from others.

Instead of waiting around for the next SOPA to be debated (and potentially passed), I choose to be proactive and learn how to protect myself. I've done some research and unearth five useful tips to help all of us protect our intellectual property.

First things first. 

What is Intellectual Property?

According to, intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic, or any unique name, symbol, logo or design used commercially. Intellectual property is protected by:
  • patents on inventions;
  • trademarks on branding devices;
  • copyrights on music, videos, patterns and other forms of expression;
  • trade secrets for methods or formulas having economic value and used commercially
Below are four ways to protect your intellectual property. 

Be Smart about Publication
Do not publish sensitive or secret materials online where search engines and the entire world can easily find and copy it. Digital materials that are published online should, at a minimum, contain your unique watermark or other identifying markings. A watermark can be extremely useful if ownership of an item is later disputed.
  • Watermarks should be placed on anything you don't want being used without credit. That includes samples, photos, etc.
  • Watermark software (many are free and can be accessed with a Google search) easily creates watermarks that are nearly invisible to the user and are critical for resolving any infringement disputes.
  • I suggest establishing company policies and requiring all employees to sign confidentiality agreements to prohibit them from disclosing or publishing your intellectual property without permission (or watermark).

Computer and Network Security
Not publishing sensitive documents online doesn't necessarily mean you're out of the woods. Security holes in any network (hard wired or wireless) can be a hacker's dream -- and Anonymous has been on a roll lately.  Secure your wireless network, password protect your computer(s) and sensitive documents, and install anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • It's always a good idea to password protect any documents that contain sensitive material.   
  • Do not allow unknown users to connect to your network. 
  • Keep your anti-virus software updated and run checks regularly. (Or you could buy a Mac, which doesn't seem to have that pesky virus problem.)

Apply for Protection
Make the first move to protect your intellectual property by applying for protection. First and foremost, research the difference between trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Each will have different requirements and require specific documentation.
  • Clearly display any patent, copyright, or trademark notices on your website and any other legally protected documents. Make it clear that your material is not free for use, duplication, or redistribution without permission.
  • Be sure to enforce any violations. There is no point in buying a copyright if you aren't going to enforce it!
  • Copyscape is a great free tool that searches the web for duplicate content. Use it!

Be Clear about Licensing Permissions
Clearly state any licensing rights, terms, and conditions of use for your intellectual property on your website. If you choose to "lease" your intellectual property (with permission of course), state your licensing policies in your Terms of Use and get licensing agreements in writing.

Writer's block

I've been trying to publish a blog post for months -- MONTHS I tell you!

Don't get me wrong, I've sat down to write a post (or twelve) and none of them were fit to print. For one reason or another, I decided against publishing my posts.

If you can't laugh at yourself, you can always laugh at this dog.

I have GOT to stop taking myself so seriously.

The T in Team

Trust is absolutely essential for a team to thrive. Think about it … trust is critical in any relationship because a relationship without trust is not really a relationship at all! As businesses continue to shift from cubicles to team-oriented workplaces, developing team building skills (trust included) is becoming necessary for success. And you want to be successful, right? Of course you do! defines trust as:
  1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
  2. confident expectation of something; hope.

Absolutely beautiful, isn't it?
Is it possible to have a team without trust? Not a successful one, that's for sure.

In order for a team (any kind of team) to function properly, every member must do what they promise, on time and as expected. Even harder, everyone on the team has to trust that every other member is going to make good on their commitments.

Easy right? (insert LOLcano here)

I've only officially been in a leadership role for 6 months now, but I can tell you with full assurance that a team without trust will collapse at the first sign of struggle. I say officially because I've been a leader my entire life; although I was always picked last in gym class, I was always the sucker who stepped up to lead group projects in school (and wound up doing most all of the work because I HAD to get an A).

I know, I know – trusting someone can be scary! Like many of you, I've put my trust in the wrong people and been disappointed and hurt.

I will never be able to control what anyone else does/says/thinks but I can control what I do/say/think. I can make damn sure that I do everything within my power to demonstrate that my word is good, that I am trustworthy (true, accurate, honest, faithful).

According to The Third Opinion: How Successful Leaders Use Outside Insight to Create Superior Results, there are three fundamental distinctions of trust: personal, expertise, and structural.

Personal trust develops in the workplace from shared tasks and an understanding of what makes your teammates tick so to speak.  It is being confident that your teammate won’t let you down when it counts, and vice versa.

When developing personal trust, you might ask the following questions about your teammate(s):
  • On a personal level, do I trust this person? 
  • Do I believe this person is honest, ethical, and well-intentioned? 
  • Do I believe s/he will make good when s/he gives his/her word? 
  • Do I believe this person will handle confidential information with care and 

Expertise trust comes from competence and knowledge in a particular subject matter or process. Expertise trust focuses on the knowledge, judgment and thinking abilities of someone else.

When developing expertise trust, you might ask the following questions about your teammate(s):
  • Do I trust that this person is an expert in his/her field? Is their knowledge current and up-to-date? Do I trust the information they gather to inform and support their opinions?
  • Do they have an ability to understand my situation and apply their knowledge to it? 
  • Do I trust their judgment regarding risk, options and tradeoffs? 
  • Do they have the ability to innovate and develop custom solutions to hard problems?

Structural trust refers to how much someone’s position or role affects your confidence that s/he will be able to deal with you straightforwardly.

When developing structural trust, you might ask the following questions about your teammate(s):
  • Do they have a personal agenda? 
  • Are they in a role where their judgment and thinking is likely to be significantly influenced by their need to advance their goals, self-interests, or advocacy?
A person trusts a team when s/he believes that team members make good-faith efforts to stick to commitments, are honest in negotiations, and don't take advantage of one another even when the opportunity presents itself.

Trust is one of the key ingredients necessary for a team to succeed, and teams of all types must remain firmly rooted in trusting relationships if they are to function effectively.

How do you build trust within your team/organization?