Ten “Techy” New Years Resolutions Every Company Should Make in 2011
by Gaida Zirkelbach on December 29, 2010
The New Year is a time for celebration and to reflect on the past year, as well as a time for resolutions, new budgets, plans and corporate goals. As we look back at 2010, we remember it as the year of the iPad, controversial airport screening technology, Gulf oil spill clean-up, iPhone antenna problems, watching Chilean miners on our laptops, checking in on Foursquare, WikiLeaks controversy, and Mark Zuckerberg being named Time’s person of the year. Technology and intellectual property had a big impact on our lives, and it will surely continue to do so in 2011. As you plan for 2011, don’t forget that just like you increasingly rely on tech and IP in your everyday life, companies increasingly rely on their trade secrets, email services, hosted solutions, websites, enterprise software, technology services and loyal employees.
If you are the President, CEO, COO, CIO or VP of a company, consider the following New Year’s resolutions to protect these valuable assets and resources:
1. I will think twice before clicking “I accept.” If you are spending a substantial amount of money with a particular service provider or vendor, or you know that you are a key strategic customer for them, then think twice before clicking “I accept” and agreeing to be bound by their online agreement. These online agreements are typically very one-sided, can be changed at any time by the other party and provide you little to no warranties or protections. I know because I often draft online agreements to benefit my clients and to the detriment of those that robotically click “I accept.” It behooves you to negotiate online agreements, especially if the service or product being obtained is important to your company’s operations.
2. I will review and negotiate tech services agreements. Similar to the first resolution above, if a technology service is crucial to your company’s operations, don’t feel pressured to accept an agreement that looks like a “form.” Consider having both your key IT officers and your attorney review the agreement before signing it.
3. I will make sure that we own our website and apps. Whether due to online sales, lead generation or otherwise, your company’s website or apps will likely be a key component of your company’s success in 2011. Many times, companies focus on the marketing and business considerations of building a website or app, but fail to protect themselves by having the necessary agreements in place with developers. A proper agreement with your developer will ensure that your company owns what is being developed and that you will not unknowingly infringe on another party’s intellectual property rights.
5. I will ensure that our hosted solutions perform. For many companies, hosted solutions are crucial to their operations. Having a good agreement in place with your hosted solution provider establishes appropriate service standards and provides your company an avenue to obtain adequate remedies in the event of a failure.
6. I will implement a social media policy. Your company’s employees are using social media websites – probably on company time and equipment, whether you like it or not. If you have not done so already, protect your company from loss of confidential information, potential claims by employees and other related issues, by implementing a social media policy.
7. I will have the right licenses in place. Confirm that your company’s employees are not using software without having the appropriate number of licenses in place in order to avoid facing claims against your company and possibly stiff fines and penalties. Also, as applicable, make sure your company is incorporating appropriate licenses and use restrictions in its agreements when it allows third parties to use software or content.
8. I will have our employees and independent contractors sign appropriate agreements. Requiring employees and independent contractors to sign agreements will protect the ownership of your company’s intellectual property, establish non-competition requirements, and protect against the disclosure of your company’s confidential information.
9. I will protect our trade secrets through the use of appropriate confidentiality agreements. Every company needs to have an individually tailored confidentiality agreement to use when hiring employees, engaging in discussions with a potential vendor, entering in new business relationships and in connection with the sale of the company or some of its assets. As important, you must educate your employees regarding which confidentiality agreement to use in a particular situation.
10. I will implement a data retention policy. Data retention policies address pre-determined lengths of time to maintain information in your company’s and employees’ possession. Federal and state laws require that companies maintain certain types of records for particular periods. Because failure to maintain records could subject a company and its employees to penalties and fines, as well as harm the company’s position in litigation, it is important for a company to implement a data retention policy and to ensure that all employees understand and comply with it.
For more information about the author, Gaida Zirkelbach, click here.