Intellectual Property: How to Protect Your Big Ideas in a Global Supply Chain

“Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Protecting intellectual property has always posed challenges, in large part because IP deals with something intangible: the thinking behind innovations. You can’t build a fence around ideas, post armed guards to protect them, or even firewall them.

Owning Your Ideas

Protecting IP starts with official recognition that a creation belongs to you. Formal endorsement comes from IP bodies verifying that it is, among other things, the first of its kind.

If your submission meets requirements, you will be issued a patent (for inventions), copyright (for artistic work, software codes and databases) or trademark (for brand-defining words and designs, such as unique product names, taglines, or logos).

Once a creation is patented, copyrighted and/or trademarked it is protected IP laws.

How Important is IP Security?

In a word: very.

IP protection exists in acknowledgement that the modern world is built on innovation. If access to your IP goes unchecked, other manufacturers can use your invention to compete for your share of the market. Worse still, “pirate” manufacturers that invest as little in quality as they do on innovation could produce imitations rife with performance and technical issues. If wronged customers can’t tell the difference between the original and a copy, your brand suffers from misdirected backlash.

Laws Unto Themselves

Most laws – including IP laws – vary from country to country. A product patented in the EU or US, for example, may not enjoy the same protection elsewhere.

Some countries have very robust laws, some have laws that are weak or not uniformly enforced. Some countries have a better reputation than they deserve, while others, are working to shake off a less than stellar history.

Naturally it is better to have IP laws at all than not. However, even with all the necessary patents, etc. in hand, the best course of action is to exercise prevention and avoid potentially time-consuming and costly disputes to begin with.

Your CM partner plays a key role in this.

Trusting Partners with Your IP

Between concept and manufacturing, your creation exists as a description in the form of words, drawings, designs, specifications, or the like. A good many of these exist in digital form, where they can be easily referenced, fine-tuned or updated.

The most reliable assurance you can have that your CM will protect your physical and virtual files is if they are ISO 27001 certified.

ISO

Global standards for a global supply chain

ISO 27001 is the international standard for information security. To be awarded ISO 27001, your CM has to have implemented a security management system that adheres to the highest global standards in data privacy, physical security and cyber security.

In addition, a CM partner who is ISO 27001 will have paved the way to compliance with numerous other regulations and standards, including country and region-specific data protection acts, such as GDPR (EU’s General Data Protection Regulation).

What to look for in a CM Partner

By virtue of their role, your contract manufacturer will see or even collaborate with you on your concepts and designs. As such they become gatekeepers to additional points of access to your IP. Make sure they take that role seriously.

Beyond a data protection management framework such as ISO 27001, a CM committed to safeguarding your intellectual property will have:

iron

An iron-clad IP security clause in the Business Agreement including pragmatic risk-mitigating measures and accountabilities

in-depth

An in-depth understanding of IP requirements and laws for any country where they have operations

understanding

A solid network of local in-house and consulting IP experts

process

In-house processes to minimize risk of IP infringement including workflows that limit opportunities for IP theft

quick response

A practiced quick response to mitigate damage if IP issues are uncovered

all departments

Employees in all departments, from R&D to Engineering to Procurement to Manufacturing, who are fully aware of the importance of IP protection and their role in securing it

agreements

Agreements that tie third party suppliers – no matter how trusted – to equally uncompromising standards

Your IP is key to maintaining your earning power and reputation. Before entrusting partners with this vital asset, ensure that they are as committed to IP protection and security as you are.

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About Providence Enterprise

Providence Enterprise is a Hong Kong medical device contract manufacturer of Class I and II medical devices with manufacturing in China & Vietnam. We specialize in electro-mechanical assemblies and high-volume disposables. We are FDA registered and ISO 13485, ISO 14971, ISO 14001, ISO 27001 certified. Our capabilities include fabricating tooling for silicone rubber and injection molded plastics, clean room injection molding, electronics, clean room assembly, and sterilization.

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