Social media plays a powerful role in the way we conduct business today. Small businesses can grow their business quickly with the social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Instagram, and others. They are a great marketing and publicity tool for a small business, startup, and well-established company. With social media, companies can immediately connect with their customers and clients. While there are innumerable benefits to social media, there are also pitfalls that may threaten your intellectual property. Social media opens the doors to infringement of your trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, and privacy rights.
Businesses need to be proactive in minimizing potential IP threats by including their employees in intellectual property strategies and IP theft prevention plans. All companies should develop a policy for social media and make sure employees follow it. The social media policy should outline and explain the following:
- Information about the confidential and proprietary agreements;
- How confidential information is protected by the company;
- How shared information is used and stored;
- How to use the company’s intellectual property (trademarks, logos, brands, copyrights)
- Information about IP rights;
- Company spokespersons permitted to speak, write, or represent the company online and on social media;
- The appropriate steps and procedures for addressing IP infringement and defamation; and
- Protocol for online conduct and activities of employees.
Companies should develop and implement a strategy to detect the major types of IP abuses and threats that impact their company. They should make it a company priority for employees to execute the plan. This plan should include social media and IP infringement monitoring. Often twitter accounts and other social media accounts can be hacked and compromise a company’s IP security.
Companies should always include a social media statement in their intellectual property agreements, contracts and policies. Most companies have standard confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with no mention of social media. They should change these agreements or create new ones that include provisions about social media. Always make sure that every employee with access to proprietary information signs a confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement that includes social media amendments.
Finally, make sure your employees realize that intellectual property rights are valuable assets to the firm and should be protected. Remind your employees that IP sets their company apart from others and is an essential part of the company’s brand. It contributes to their overall success and every employee plays a role in creating an effective intellectual property management plan.