Ask The Hartford
As a leading property and casualty insurer, we are committed to helping you meet the needs of your technology & life science business. Take a look at our frequently asked questions. Still have a question? Feel free to submit your own.
Protecting Against Intellectual Property Theft
For technology and life science firms, theft of intellectual property – patents, trademarks and copyrights – is a real threat. What can I do to protect our company?
We recommend using the following precautions along with sound contract management techniques to guard your intellectual property:
- Identify your most valuable information assets – and guard them carefully. Once you know what your valuables are, be careful about who you tell – and how many people have access to them.
- Register your valuables – When you produce an original work of authorship, your work is automatically and immediately under copyright. For simple instructions on how to register your information assets, go to https://www.copyright.gov/register/literary.html.
- Use a copyright notice – Tell all viewers of your work that it’s protected if it is copyrightable. For more details on how to correctly use copyright, go to https://www.copyright.gov.
- Protect your company’s rights – Make sure you have a full understanding of the acquisition of rights, licenses, releases and consents applicable to content or services contained in your work, created or provided by your company or by third parties (including work done for your company by third parties)
- Consider IP insurance – IP insurance policies provide “first party” coverage that protects your firm if you find it necessary to sue an individual or firm for stealing your intellectual property.
Trademarks, copyrights, patents – what’s the difference?
- A trademark is a word, name, phrase, symbol or design – or any combination of these – that identifies and distinguishes a specific product from others. For trademark information, go to https://www.uspto.gov/trademark.
- A copyright protects an original artistic, literary, dramatic or musical work presented as a book, photograph, movie or other tangible medium. For copyright information, go to https://www.copyright.gov.
- A patent protects an invention, which includes a process or a machine. Receiving a patent for an invention means that others are excluded from making, using or selling the invention. For patent information, go to https://www.uspto.gov/patent.
Managing Security to Protect Data
With the number of laptop and iPad thefts on the rise, how can I keep my electronic device and data safe?
Laptops, iPad and other electronic devices have become a target for thieves because they are small, easy to move, easy to hide and easy to fence. A good electronic device is costly and the thief may receive up to half of the retail value for a stolen item. As a bonus, they may also gain access to valuable confidential data like Social Security numbers or account numbers. Here are some simple tips that can help keep your device safe:
- Don’t leave a device in an unlocked vehicle, even if the vehicle is in your driveway or garage. Never leave it in plain sight, even if the vehicle is locked. If you must leave it in the vehicle, lock it in the trunk. If you don’t have a trunk, cover it and lock the doors.
- Parking garages are common locations for thefts from vehicles, providing thieves with many possible targets out of public view. Cover your device or place it in the trunk.
- Don’t leave a meeting or conference room without your device. Take it with you or it may not be there when you return.
- Lock the device in your office during off-hours.
- Use a cable lock that wraps around a desk or chair leg. Or put the device in a locked closet or cabinet.
- Don’t let unaccompanied strangers wander around in your workplace. Offer assistance and deliver visitors to their destinations.
- Be aware that if your device is stolen, automatic log-ins can make it easy for a thief to send inappropriate messages with your account.
- Back up your information regularly, and store this information in a safe place.
Never check a device in your baggage. When going through airport security, keep watch over your device during the entire screening process
In the event of a theft, how do I make sure my backup media is secure?
Technology and life science businesses should have procedures in place to ensure the security of backup media. Some basic steps you should follow include:
- Identify the data on the backup media to help determine what type of security measure is appropriate.
- Determine what type of backup media is best for your business. Physical backup media might include USB drives, zip disks, flash drives, etc.
Establish security procedures for the physical transportation of the media to the storage site:
- Sign-in/sign-out procedure
- Two-person control
- Physical security during transport, such as locked container with key/lock control
- Receipt documentation at the storage site
- Management oversight and review
Ensure physical security at the storage site, including:
- Adequate physical perimeter security
- Adequate security alarm system
- Sign-in/sign-out procedures
- Operating instructions in the event of a security breach
- Test procedures for backup media
Transporting Technology Goods
I know that there are many dangers associated with shipping goods to various destinations. Is there anything I can do to help protect my shipments?
Always keep accurate and detailed documentation of what you ship. This way there won’t be discrepancies about the condition or the number of items you shipped. That means a faster resolution if there’s a claim.
Many carriers may provide only basic protection or limited value per pound. Declare a value of your goods so if goods are damaged, the carrier should pay a higher amount than if you elected not to declare a value.
Of course, this means you’ll spend a little more to ship, but this will serve as a signal to the carrier to use extra care when handling your shipment. Once the items are delivered, completely inspect them. Don’t sign a carrier release until you’ve verified that all pieces were delivered and are in good condition. If you see any damage, note it on the shipping documents.
I want to protect my technology products – whether I’m importing servers from Malaysia or exporting computers to China. How do I make sure I have insurance that protects my good from point of origin to point of destination?
One way is to make sure you have insurance that protects your goods from point of origin to point of destination. For instance, if you regularly use trucks provided by a common carrier, shipper’s interest coverage protects you if your goods don’t arrive in the same condition or as specified in your bill of lading. It’s good protection because you never know what happens to your goods once they’re driven out of sight.
For companies that regularly ship goods internationally by air or sea, an open ocean cargo policy is a must-have. It offers protection from perils of the sea as well as other exposures to which goods in transit are typically exposed. Like a home equity line of credit, business owners pay a premium for how much or how little they use every month.
Ocean cargo insurance has historically addressed risks of loss that are also of particular concern today:
- War coverage insures against damage or loss to your cargo caused by a variety of hostile acts instigated by a sovereign power.
- Strikes, riots and civil commotion coverage may protect against losses that are directly caused by terrorists or anyone acting with political motives.
- Customs damage and detainment coverage pays for direct physical damage to your goods caused by customs officials while performing their inspections.
Tech – Workplace Practices
I’ve always thought that technology and life science companies are relatively benign places to work. Yet, I’ve heard that they’re facing increased exposure in the employment lawsuit arena. Why is that?
The makeup of technology and life science companies is changing – and, they’re facing more employment lawsuits than in the past. Today’s technology and life science companies:
- Are becoming vulnerable to age discrimination charges since they are beginning to have more employees who are over 40 and who, therefore, are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
- May employ workers in science and engineering jobs that require experience, a very specific skill set, a high level of education and that pay a high salary. This demographic raises the number of potential cases that are prohibitively expensive to settle or litigate.
- Have struggled to hire women and minorities to fill science and engineering positions, creating a workforce that is skewed toward white males – a potential treasure trove for plaintiffs’ attorneys.
- Are often in start-up environments where employee expectations are high.
- Can experience a high burnout rate because of the stressful and demanding workplace.
In addition, technology and life science companies are relying more than ever on e-mail, text messaging and digital creation of content for communications. Because these communications create, in essence, an “electronic paper trail,” they can be used as evidence in an employment-related lawsuit. E-mail, which is easily retrievable even after deletion, can embolden plaintiffs and encourage them to hold out for higher settlements.
Reducing Injury with Ergonomics
Should I be worried about my technology and life science employees getting injured on the job?
Believe it or not, more than half of all workplace injuries are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Musculoskeletal injuries are common among those who engage in such repetitive motion activities as typing on a computer keyboard or working on a manufacturing assembly line.
Long days hunched over keyboards or on the assembly line endlessly snapping in the same part, can lead to cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) and lower back ailments. In fact, nearly 60 percent of employees doing computer work say they have wrist pain.
Several trends make CTDs a special concern for technology and life science firms. So many employees in the industry use computers. Many of these same people also sit down at the computer at home, to surf the Internet. Second, specialized jobs are increasing every day. This means more people are doing the same thing all day.
How can Ergonomics help protect my workers from cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) and other lower back injuries?
Ergonomics, or the process of safely and comfortably relating workers to their workspaces, can help. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests: leaving enough room for range of motion; adjusting desk chairs to individuals; positioning monitors so eye level is at the top of the screen; and finding a pointing device, such as a mouse, stylus or tablet, suited to the individual.
Other simple things employers can consider to help protect their workers include:
- Stress the importance of good posture at the computer.
- Use smart lifting techniques and tools that can make the job easier.
- Appoint someone on your staff to take responsibility for safety issues. Have this person research ergonomics best practices, review resources provided by your workers' compensation insurance company, train employees, and make changes to workspaces as needed.