What policies and procedures should you have to protect your IP? To answer this question depends on who “you” are. This post goes over two very general types of situations – large companies and small 1-2 person shops. As always, you should consult your attorney to see what specific polices you need.
The Large Company
The large company faces multiple issues – such as dealing with agencies like the SEC, developing employee policies, and following truth in advertising rules. Large companies, especially those that are either publicly traded or thinking about going public, need to worry about publishing information that goes afoul of SEC rules. For instance, having an employee that publishes information regarding profit forecasts on twitter, even if unauthorized, may cause issues for the company. Because of this, large companies also have to worry about what their employees say, both in and out of work. Therefore, it is important to have a written policy on social media and other communications in general.
Although these issues may also be faced by medium sized companies, the large business may have a more difficult time dealing with this issues. One reason is monitoring 20 employees and communicating policies such as what can and cannot be posted on social media sites, and monitoring that employees are following it, is easier than monitoring and communicating policies to 500 employees.
Because of this, large companies need a written employee communication policy that covers both what can be said verbally and electronically. These policies should incorporate social media policies and address and special circumstances (i.e. if there are additional rules imposed by HIPAA or other laws that may apply). Large companies should also have either an in-house counsel or outside counsel that is familiar with SEC and FTC compliance issues to make sure both employees and upper management (i.e. board members) are counseled on what can and cannot be said regarding the company.
The Small Company
Small companies can usually internally ensure that employees, especially if there are only one or two employees, follow the policies that the owner wants. Small companies are also, typically, less concerned with releasing information that may violated the SEC rules (unless of course, small companies are looking to sell shares then it may be an issue). Because of this, depending on the number of employees, small companies may have an informal policy, unlike large companies that need written formalized policies, that is crafted with the help of an attorney to ensure that employees know what they can and cannot talk about (and the owners know too).
However, as small companies typically do not have in-house consul, small companies may have more problems ensuring that they follow advertising rules. Therefore, they need to make sure they have been counseled on what is, and isn’t, deceptive advertising. Depending on the company’s line of business, there may also rules and regulations that the company needs to follow (i.e. insurance, accounting, health, etc). By knowing the rules that govern the type of industry the company is in, a company can help make sure it is compliance with the rules.
If you find that the above post interests you, I invite you to come and listen to the Mile High Social Media Club presentation Thursday, November 19th at Strings in Denver at which myself and two other individuals will be on a panel discussing these types of issues. You can RSVP for the event at http://novembermhsmc.eventbrite.com.