Stealing Trade Secrets

When you are in business and working your ass off to develop a new product, and someone sneaks into your building and steals that secret, and then builds a competing product that beats yours to the market place would you be angry? I would, and I am. I don’t have any secrets because I’m not researching or developing a product, at least not anymore. When I did work, I was researching and developing new products continuously. I can vouch for the amount of energy it takes to do that. Thankfully, my boss, who happened to own the company had a tough security policy in place. His philosophy was that he pays for developing new products and his competitors should do the same. He refused to give competitors the keys to the factory.

There was nothing he could do about a competitor buying our product and reverse engineering it, or giving it to one of our material suppliers to have them analyze it. I did the same thing, but that is fair. What is not fair is stealing the key design features and or the process for making a product from the producer.

Today, I read another news article about how China has infiltrated so many of our institutions of learning and research to find shortcuts to their success. They don’t have the brain power to do the job so they use any method they can to take products to market. It seems they have the money to bribe employees within key markets but not the money to develop the same information. Actually, I think they have the money. What they don’t have is people smart enough to think for themselves.

Why does China do this? Because they can. We let them in and open the files for them to see. Yes, they are thieves and they take advantage of our country at every opportunity, but that is because we let them do it. We look upon them as a country with too many people to feed and as a backward nation so we tend to be loose with our information. It is my opinion that America will continue to get raped by China until we take action against that happening. A few new laws might help, but what will help the most are tough security policies within companies. If a company is complaining that China is stealing its secrets then that company should take a look in the mirror and examine its security rules and its philosophy on transparency. Transparency and security don’t always mix. The most secure companies operate under handicaps in the industry. I for one thought our policies about not speaking to vendors about our processes and designs made my job a thousand percent tougher because i couldn’t get technical information from vendor experts without divulging my information. The result was we had to expend more time and effort to learn what we needed when experts in companies like DuPont, Monsanto, Celanese had super labs with a myriad of Ph.D.’s hired to help customers.

Competition is what makes capitalism work as well as it does. Competition keeps companies sharp and focused. All it takes is for a competitor to tweak a design to make it better than yours and bingo you just lost. The end result is you spend more money catching up and out doing the foe. If the profit is there it is worth doing, if not, you may just give it up and sell it cheaper than him to save your initial investment. All products have a life cycle and the first one on the market may last for forty years as did the products I worked on. In today’s world the life cycle may only be eighteen months, meaning your product will be out dated by a newer product that people will want more than your tired old eighteen month one. With products that have such a short life cycle security is imperative.

What really gets me is the auto industry. Have you ever wondered how new cars always look eerily similar to each other? Sure they are noticeably different, but their general shapes and lines are similar. Many times I have seen cars in the parking lot that looked like mine but it wasn’t mine. I blame that on poor security within the auto industry. These guys must be sending each other design files via internet to compare shapes and features. Of course cars require a lot of tooling to make, such as dies, and molds. The tools are made by outside companies. This outside source is ripe for picking and giving the competition free peeks at designs. The owner I worked for understood this and insisted that all tooling needed for making our products will be done in house. Now that is expensive, but he felt it worth the money.

My advice to companies, hospitals, laboratories, etc that are losing information to the Chinese is simple, adopt a policy of ‘if you need to know it you get to know it.’ If you don’t need the information on your job you won’t get it. The key is to adopt the policy, and then to enforce it. If you don’t you will be raped over, and over, and over again. You know what is said about doing the same thing over, and over and expecting a different result, that is the definition of insanity.

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