It takes years to build brand recognition and unique creations from scratch. In the age of the Internet, someone can steal logos, slogans, trade secrets, processes, designs and other forms of intellectual property in an instant. Once intellectual property (IP) is stolen, it can be difficult to contain. An attorney can help you understand and protect your rights after a former employee or competitor has stolen your information. However, businesses can take measures to protect their work proactively.

1. Understand and communicate

First, you will need to evaluate the IP that is important to your company. Do you have an essential customer list or unbeatable process? Determine all the information that you want to protect, and communicate that with employees. CEOs, marketing employees, HR workers and possibly all employees should understand that this information must not be shared.

2. Keep it confidential

Keep your important information out of the public eye by limiting access. For example, put your manufacturing process in a computer folder with limited user access. Sensitive information should be on a need-to-know basis. You can also make confidentiality contracts mandatory for new and even existing employees. Employees can sign nondisclosure agreements to keep essential industry information safe.

3. Consider your need for trademarks, copyrights and patents

You may want to seek legal protections for your work. Registering a trademark can be beneficial to protect intellectual property such as your company name and logo. If your business created an original product, such as software, then you may want to seek patent protection. Copyright protection is helpful for original creations including designs, written content and creative work.

If you currently do business in foreign countries, or plan to do so in the future, it is especially important to consider proactive safety measures. Businesses in some countries are notorious for stealing IP. Keep your valuable business information safe by taking these steps and keeping IP protection top of mind.