CIOs Need To Know How To Deal With IP Issues

It's not always clear when there is an IP issue at stake
It’s not always clear when there is an IP issue at stake
Image Credit: E Theriot

As CIOs we tend to focus on the immediate problems that are in front of us. These include such things as growing the number of servers that the company is using, picking the right data center, and implementing yet another company wide application. However, it turns out that there is an issue that may be lurking in the background that we really should be spending some time on: IP issues.

What Are IP Issues?

Every CIO needs his or her IT department to be creative. We’d like this creativity to be home grown, but we need to have our teams reach out and use things like open source solutions when they are available. However, whenever we start to incorporate things that we didn’t invent ourselves into our products and solutions, that’s when we just might start to encounter some intellectual property (IP) issues.

This, of course, brings up the interesting questions. First off, we should probably review just exactly what intellectual property is in the eyes of the law. Intellectual property is considered to be things like patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Things that we create with our minds include methods, ideas, characters, stories, techniques, and methods are all part of what the law considers to be intellectual property.

The reason that things can get tricky for a CIO is that the law views these things that you can’t touch as being a form of property. This means that they need to be treated the same way that a physical asset would be treated. What’s really going on here is that the person (or company) who came up with the intellectual property wants to benefit from it. If they think that you or your team is using it without giving them what they deserve, this is when you’ll find yourself in hot water.

What IP Issues Does A CIO Have To Watch Out For?

Given that you can quickly get you and your IT department into trouble when it comes to IP issues, what is the person in the CIO position to do? The first thing that we need to realize is just exactly where this problem came from. It turns out that our old friend technology is probably to blame.

The problem that CIOs are facing today is that our technology has made it almost too easy for our staff to use information. Almost as soon as it has been invented, new code or ideas can find their way into your IT shop. It’s this ease of transfer and ease of use that is causing all of the IP issues that the people with the CIO job have to deal with today.

What we need to understand as CIOs is that despite the importance of information technology, the issue of IP rights as it applies to what we do is still unclear. We are faced with an IT environment in which it is very easy to copy and use things; however, if we’re not careful then by doing so we’ll end up violating IP laws. We need to establish boundaries for our departments and then make sure that we’ve educated everyone about how to handle material that we didn’t create ourselves.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

When you are creating a list of the things that you need to be working on, it turns out that there is one more thing that really should be on your list: intellectual property. IP is one of those things that seems to be intangible until there’s a problem and your company finds itself heading to court.

IP issues can show up at any time. IP covers a large set of intangible items such as ideas, techniques, stories, methods, etc. In the eyes of the law, these items are the same as real physical goods and are treated in the same way. This means that a CIO has be constantly aware of when his or her company is creating IP and when they might be using someone else’s IP. CIOs need to understand that how the law deals with IP issues may be different than what we would expect from a common sense approach.

Every company’s IT department is trying to create solutions that will allow the company to be successful in its marketplace. In this era of open software and other IT assets, CIOs need to keep a careful watch out for possible IP usage violations. It’s tough work, but if it saves you from going to court then it’s well worth it!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What’s the best way for a CIO to determine if your team is using IP that does not belong to you?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person in the CIO position, I’m pretty sure that by now you’ve come to realize that not all of the workers at your company are the same. It turns out that some of these workers need a little bit of extra help from your IT department. You might instinctively think that I’m talking about the company’s older workers. However, that’s not the case. I’m really talking about your younger workers. Study after study has shown that they are the ones who are most likely to make mistakes that will complicate your life.

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