Intellectual Property (IP) in a BYOD Environment
With the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices now, many companies have found it’s not only cheaper, but ultimately preferable, to ask employees to bring their own device The BYOD trend has become widespread — a recent survey by consulting and research firm Ovum found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed brought their own devices to work and used them to access company resources. Because of that, many unique challenges exist for businesses who choose to adopt a BYOD policy, and the questions such policies raise about intellectual property can be overwhelming.
Understanding the Nature of Intellectual Property
Intellectual property, or IP, as it is known in the industry, refers in a very general way to the results of intellectual activity from various sectors, including arts, science, industry and literature. When an employee uses using a personal device in a company facility, it can raise many questions about who actually possesses ownership of content and data created or stored within the device.
Employer or Employee Can Both Be Taken Advantage Of
In Canada, there is no specific law or rule that requires a creator or inventor to assign their designs, creations and inventions to an employer. However, a situation in which an employee may be legally compelled to make such an assignment exists when there is a formal agreement or contract between employee and employer. If no such agreement governing an assignment exists, work an employee is paid to do could be ruled as personal IP, leaving an employer footing the bill for research, design and conceptualization on a product or idea that may never benefit them.
The reverse can be true as well. Employers must create a document that not only establishes the nature of IP creation, but also how employees access and disseminate the IP owned by the company, including but not limited to software, art design and technical specifications — all resources that may be stored on an employees personal device.
Policy and Contract Creation
Drafting a clearly worded and easy to understand employee contract regarding IP ownership and policies, as well as addressing BYOD security, is key to protecting a company’s intellectual property. While it may seem that documents and policies concerning BYOD security and management may be overkill for your business today, a recent report by the Gartner research group predicts by the year 2017 50 percent of technology or industry employers will require employees to provide some form of mobile device.
Protecting intellectual property from malicious or accidental theft cannot wait. Security software development company ESET ran a survey recently that found that less than half of employee-owned mobile devices possess adequate encryption, or any encryption at all. Not only should BYOD documents address encryption policies, they should set forward specific guidelines about employee use of insecure Wi-Fi, to prevent accidental or malicious data interception.
When crafting such policies, it’s important to consult with members of various departments in your organization. For example, the human resources and legal departments will certainly have privacy and legal issues to address, just as company software developers will have security and encryption standards. Each group in your company possesses a different outlook that, together, will help you create a policy considers all the ramifications and needs of your particular enterprise. Once created, employee compliance with BYOD policies should not be optional, and signing such documents should occur whenever an employee joins or leaves your organizations BYOD program.