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Managing IPR in a digital age August 22, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services, Outsourcing.
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So you have a dilemma.

You may well already use an outsourced or managed service environment and it all works well, but then the supplier calls and offers to start doing some extra parts of your supply chain. Moving up the value chain as the expression goes.

That’s great too, provided it’s a supplier you know and trust. Why not ask them to take on more work if you know you can trust them to deliver?

But the thing that often worries clients is how they can outsource higher-end work without losing control of their intellectual property.

It’s a dilemma, because the boundary of the organisation is constantly shifting, but where contracts are concerned, someone needs to take a decision so services can be defined. But when are the key parts of the relationship to check on if you are going to extend a process outsourcing relationship?

  • First, is to ensure you have all your IP protected anyway using tools such as trademarks or copyright. You need to have your own house in order first.
  • Second, is to review the contract with your supplier. Can you ensure that you retain IP rights even if the supplier creates value and possibly even invents new processes for you?
  • Third, be aware of your own limits. There is always a pragmatic limit about what can and can’t be protected, so make sure you have also considered the difference between what the law says and what you really can do in the event of a breach.
  • Fourth, review all practical security measures that can be taken  around the relationship, hand-offs, and the delivery site so that confidential IP cannot be removed from site.
  • Fifth, identify where the supplier may be working for your competition and so-called ‘Chinese walls’ need to be extremely strong.

In most cases, if you have a great supplier at one level, then they will be able to scale up to the next level. It is usually beneficial for the supplier (more business) as well as the client (more services provided by a trusted and already proven partner) so this should not be considered a dangerous strategy.

In fact, it’s going to be essential for most firms to turn to trusted partners more and more, just to achieve the kind of performance expected of a twenty-first century business.

Ensuring you can work with an ecosystem of partners whilst still protecting your valuable IP is all just a part of doing business in a globally connected environment.

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Shutting down Twitter August 17, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, Internet.
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The recent civil unrest in several English cities that turned from a political protest into looting and criminality within a couple of days has led lawmakers to explore the social networks blamed for organising the wave of crime.

Though many commentators are pointing out that cars should not be banned because lawbreakers may have used a vehicle to get to the riots, some in government appear adamant that social networks need to be controlled during times of civil disobedience.

It sounds like a cross between the controlled Internet of China and the Egyptian government behaviour – faced with the Arab spring and a popular uprising, the government forced telephone operators to shut down their networks. For a couple of days there was no Internet in Egypt. Citizens resorted to dial-up connections via international phone calls to get any news out of the country.

Could this really happen in the UK?

Former BT Chief Scientist Peter Cochrane dismissed the idea as bluff, suggesting that the government doesn’t understand how the Internet works and that information would always flow, despite any attempt to block it. Others are not so sure.

The Prime Minister himself announced to MPs last week that he is working with the police and intelligence services with a view to exploring the consequences of limiting access to these websites and services if they are being used for criminal purposes. The government already has extensive online intelligence tools available, such as wire-tapping and the boffins inside GCHQ.

So if they started actively requesting offending social media accounts are shut down, would the social networks listen? They might, but then again, would any serious criminals be broadcasting their plans in public? In which case the government would need to directly ask phone networks to suspend their entire 3G services.

In any case, in stark contrast to Egypt, many of the UK networks would refuse on principle, and where would we be then? I don’t believe there is any law that gives the government a right to instruct a phone company to just shut down because of a threat.

[Note: these are the views of the author and not necessarily reflected by Thomas Eggar]