How can you prove intellectual property theft?


Intellectual property is the lifeline of every company. That was not always so. That is why intellectual property is all the more in the crosshairs of criminal hackers today. The entertainment industry in particular is repeatedly relieved of its intellectual property in a publicly effective manner - be it "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Game of Thrones".

Your company's intellectual property - whether it consists of patents, trade secrets, or simply the know-how of your employees - may also be much more valuable than your physical assets. Security professionals should therefore do everything in their power to identify the dark forces that are hungry for your data and to expose their motivation and tactics. These dark figures may also disguise themselves as "Competitive Intelligence Researchers". Others are simply spies hired by competitors or even a government. In any case, these individuals will stop at nothing - bribery, fraud, theft and spying are part of their daily bread.

The protection of intellectual property is a complex undertaking that affects various areas of a company - including the legal and IT departments, but also the HR department and others. We provide you with comprehensive information on all important aspects that you should consider in order to protect your intellectual properties in the best possible way.

What is intellectual property?

A lot can fall under the term intellectual property: from the production process to plans for a product launch to trade secrets. It is an exclusive right to an intangible good. According to the definition of the World Intellectual Property Ogranization (WIPO), the term Intellectual Property describes intellectual creations - that is, inventions, literature or art, symbols, names, images and designs - that are used in a commercial environment. WIPO divides intellectual property into two categories:

  • "Industrial property" therefore includes (not only, but also) patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.

  • Under the term "copyright", however, the institution subsumes literary works such as poems, novels, plays, films, music and other artistic products.

For companies in many industries, their intellectual property is more important than their physical goods - for example in the pharmaceutical industry. Theft of intellectual property costs the industry almost 600 billion dollars annually in the USA alone - and in Germany, too, the industry is increasingly becoming the target of industrial spies.

Criminal hackers and spies are primarily targeting the following goods:

Patents: You grant an exclusive right to manufacture and / or market specific, tangible things or products. A patent application can also be made in foreign countries in order to withhold your plans from the competition for as long as possible. Once you have a patent, others can license your product. The property right of a patent in Germany extends for a maximum of twenty years.

Trademarks: consist of names, sentences, sounds or symbols that are used in connection with a service or product. A brand can help companies improve their reputation because it is associated with a certain level of quality. A registered trademark is protected for ten years and can be renewed after it has expired.

Works protected by copyright: This includes artistic works that have been captured with the help of a moving medium - for example poems, novels, songs or films. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself. The owner of a work protected by copyright can reproduce it, convert it into another form (for example in the context of a book adaptation) and also sell or exhibit his work publicly. In order to keep a copyright you do not necessarily have to register it - but if you want to enforce it in court, this registration is the basic requirement. Copyright applies as long as the author of the work is alive - and 50 years after that.

Trade and business secrets: These can be formulas, devices or data collections that give their owner a competitive advantage. In Germany, trade secrets are protected by both the criminal law (§§ 203, 204 StGB) and the law against unfair competition (§§ 17 ff. UWG). In order to be able to protect a trade or business secret, companies must prove that it is actually a secret that represents added value for the company. Suitable measures for secrecy must also be proven - for example to the extent that only selected people in the company are informed about them.

However, intellectual property can also be just an idea: If your head of development experiences a Eureka moment during the morning toilet and then implements this new idea in the office, that is also intellectual property.