Protecting Trade Secrets is launching a new regular feature, where we will interview people of interest in the trade-secrets world. Starting with Pamela Passman, President and CEO of CREATe.org. “The Center for Responsible Enterprise And Trade (CREATe.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping companies and their suppliers and business partners reduce corruption and IP theft in the forms of counterfeiting, piracy and trade secret theft.”
Recently, I published a blog post discussing a new trade-secrets report published by CREATe.org. I asked Ms. Passman questions about CREATe.org and the report. I’ll be running the interview in two parts. Check back later this week for part 2.
Protecting Trade Secrets: Let’s start with some background on CREATe.org. When was it created? By whom? Why? What are its primary activities?
Pamela Passman: While at Microsoft, as Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Global Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, I led regulatory compliance work on a range of issues in more than 100 countries. For nearly six years I also headed Legal and Corporate Affairs in Asia, based in Tokyo, with a focus on Japan, Korea and the People’s Republic of China.
My collective experience—in compliance, corporate leadership, public policy and emerging markets—led me to consider a new approach to two critical issues for companies around the world: intellectual property (IP) protection and anti-corruption.
The genesis for the idea of CREATe.org was based in recognizing that companies such as Microsoft, GE, P&G and many others have spent years developing robust management systems and best practices to appropriately manage and use IP and to prevent corruption. Equally important, was a belief that the private sector can play a powerful role in driving responsible business practices and bridging regulatory gaps where adequate laws do not exist or enforcement is weak.
From these perspectives, CREATe.org was founded in October 2011. As a non-profit organization, CREATe.org works across industries and geographies with a mission to bring leading practices in IP protection and anti-corruption to all companies. The organization works to provide cost-effective and practical assessments, benchmarking, tools and step-by-step guidance for companies, particularly those that lack a track record of developing and implementing compliance programs.
PTS: Does CREATe.org have any policy objectives (e.g., lobbying for legislation, regulations)?
PP: CREATe.org is focused on ways the private sector can more effectively address the issues of IP protection and anti-corruption. We do this by helping companies around the world improve practices and put systems in place to mitigate the risks of IP theft and corruption. CREATe.org is not a lobbying organization.
PTS: What precipitated the “Economic Impact of Trade Secret Theft” report?
PP: In the organization’s first two years, our team gathered insights from companies around the world, gave countless presentations and partnered with think tanks, academics and experts on IP protection and anti-corruption. The challenge of trade-secret theft was a topic that surfaced throughout these exchanges. Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to protect trade secrets, both within companies and among third-parties.
PTS: Let’s turn to some of the details of the report. Your framework to safeguard trade secrets involves bringing key stakeholders into the process. Often, senior executives can be reluctant to participate in such a process. Any suggestions for building enthusiasm among senior executives?
PP: Most senior executives appreciate that trade secrets are key to the company’s value, ability to innovate and compete. For many, the question is where to start? Our intent was to break down a comprehensive approach into steps and provide tools for making the process practical. Providing a clear path and the benefits of safeguarding trade secrets can be helpful for building support internally.
PTS: Similarly, your report acknowledges that protecting trade secrets can require actions that may cut against other company priorities, such as maximizing productivity. For example, increased security measures may result in it taking longer for employees to access documents they need to perform their jobs. Any suggestions for building a corporate culture that values protecting trade secrets on par with other financial priorities?
PP: Each company must determine the correct level of actions appropriate for their corporate culture and then invest in training and awareness campaigns to help educate employees on the importance of protecting company trade secrets. In our work in Asia, for example, we see companies with increasing focus on building awareness within their employee base and key third parties – including IP protection campaigns that use a variety of media to promote good practices, from posters in the company cafeteria to e-learning and screen savers for desktop computers.
Later this week, Ms. Passman responds to my two critiques of the report and discusses CREATe.org’s next steps.