We’ve all heard the horror stories of a company suddenly competing against what appears to be a clone of their product. If only they could rewind time and protect their IP more rigorously, life would be so much easier!
When researching potential contract manufacturing (CM) partners, it’s absolutely critical to choose one that will take great care to protect your intellectual property (IP). The consequences of compromised IP can be dire. As you go through the vetting process, what are some of the important considerations to evaluate to make sure your sensitive information is not at risk? First, make sure they actually have an IP policy in place; if there is no formal policy, run the other way. Next, verify the systems and controls in detail. Important items to consider include:
IT Security – Security breaches have become too common. How does the CM protect IP from the outside world? Are the necessary firewalls in place? Are they monitored in real time? How often is there a formal review of IT security tools, procedures and policies? Does the contract manufacturer address internal information security? Does the CM segregate information internally by formally granting access rights? Is business information backed up daily and stored off site?
Physical Security – Does the contract manufacturer restrict entry to its facility? Once inside, there should be an electronic badge system to deny access to restricted areas by unauthorized third parties. For example, Keller Technology does not allow any third-party access to the engineering department where sensitive information may be located and routinely discussed. Instead, all meetings with customers and/or suppliers are done in “free movement zones.” Additionally, the CM should also have the ability to cordon off areas of the manufacturing floor, upon customer request, to restrict viewing and access by other visitors.
Policies and Procedures – Does the contract manufacturing company have written policies and procedures addressing IP security? These procedures should delineate what is and is not permissible with respect to handling sensitive customer information. The CM needs to be able to explain how they perform tasks such as interfacing with sub-suppliers without compromising customer IP, and provide evidence that current NDAs are in place with all suppliers.
Culture – This is an essential, and often overlooked, component of IP security. The company’s collective attitude is what ascribes importance to the protection of customer IP. Are corporate policies and procedures taken seriously? Some contract manufacturers will divulge the names of its customers and use pictures of their products without explicit permission. Remember, if the CM is willing to tell you all about its current customers, it stands to reason they will be equally free with your sensitive information.
Protecting the security of your customer’s IP is essential to maintaining their trust, and trust is an essential ingredient in the relationship required between a customer and a contract manufacturing company. Are you looking for a reliable contract manufacturer for cleanroom assembly or medical equipment? Keller is here to help. Contact us today to find out how we make protecting your intellectual property our number one goal.