Intellectual Property (from Wikipedia) “is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, ….. such as copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.”
Creating new Intellectual Property is a very lengthy process:
To start with, it requires plenty of IP to create new IP. It is not something you simply decide to do.
It requires experience, immagination, capability to conduct research, to think out of the box, to be innovative, to see things which others cannot.
It takes plenty of time and money. It is also very risky. Someone could have a similar idea and get there before you do. Coming second is tantamount to failure. Being the first of the last is useless.
Great IP is more valuable than money, more precious than one can imagine.
For all these reasons, people will want to steal your IP. This is particularly true of very large companies. This is one reason huge companies have huge legal departments. Many lawyers and deep pockets means, for all practical purposes, impunity.
One way to steal IP is via reverse engineering. Wikipedia defines it as:
“Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the process by which a man-made object is deconstructed to reveal its designs, architecture, or to extract knowledge from the object; similar to scientific research, the only difference being that scientific research is about a natural phenomenon”.
IP can be stolen in more or less elegant forms.
Ontonix, like many companies, has been victim of IP theft, license cracking, and attempts at emulating (=stealing) our unusual, unique and exclusive technology.
It is not always necessary to obtain a product in order to steal the IP it contains. In some cases it is enough to witness a presentation of something truly unique (like the QCM), ask a few questions, go home and design something similar with your logo on top. Very large companies have huge resources and can easily put armies of PhDs in order to replicate something seen on a set of Power Point slides. This will save them years of R&D time and plenty of cash. This is what many companies do. R&D is highly risky and a long-term undertaking. What better than to push R&D risk and effort on small companies and then to reap the fruits by simply taking them? So, what do armies of PhDs do in some large companies? Do they do creative R&D? No. They use their PhDs to replicate the work of others. Sometimes, to add insult to injury, instead of PhDs they use summer students.
Keep in mind one thing – large companies prefer to have 1 supplier doing the job of 2. Especially if one of the suppliers is a small company and the other a super huge one. The large supplier will pressure your client to have him do your job too. In particular, if you have technology the large company doesn’t.
Large companies like to post long declarations of ethics, trust, values, honesty and integrity, but fail to mention not stealing the IP of their suppliers. Make sure that your logo and a copyright statement are present on every page of your material. Sure, they can be easily removed, but that means tampering with proprietary material and that may have consequences in court.
Legal tricks are another suble form of IP theft. One can never get enough legal advice prior to signing a contract involving SW and consulting services.
Stay away from universities and university grants. Universities have no money and a tremendous thirst for good new ideas, equations and “technical details”. “Can you send us something a little bit more technical?” is the typical question after the first meeting. This serves one purpose – to get your IP, to publish papers and, one day, to found a start up with your IP.
Another form of shameless theft are the so-called PoCs, or Proofs of Concept. The term itself – Proof of Concept – hides two wicked goals. The first is to make one think that a particular technology is still in its early stage and therefore one is not really sure if it works. This makes it risky, therefore – and here comes goal number 2 – it must be cheap. Conclusion: avoid the term “PoC”. Call it a Pilot Project, or simply Project, as these tend to be more expensive. Your technology and IP may still be hacked, but at least at a higher cost.
What can a company do to protect itself? What ways are there of keeping one’s IP safe? One can, for example, resort to encryption or (SW) obfuscation. Another solution is to avoid publishing patents – non-existent patents cannot be infringed – or scientific papers. One can also refrain from giving seminars or webinars, a popular and suicidal form of practice.
However, we believe that the best way to protect IP is to create new IP at a rate with which it is difficult to keep up. In essence we’re looking at an approach to obsolescence, which is not programmed – you cannot plan how much new IP will be created tomorrow and when you will phase out a product – but which is opportunistic in nature. In fact, at Ontonix, we strive to make our technology and products obsolete. As fast as possible. This ‘cannibalistic’ form of R&D keeps the enemy off balance. It also forces us to invest an unusually high portion of our revenue in R&D. Expensive but effective.
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