As we have discussed elsewhere, a trade secret audit or assessment is vital if a company is to protect itself during the outsourced manufacturing process. [See these articles: Trade Secret Audits – Why Bother? ; You’ve Decided to Conduct a Trade Secret Audit. Now What?; You’ve Decided to Conduct a Trade Secret Audit. Now What? Part 2 ] Read more
Last time, I discussed outsourced manufacturing as well as the process and personnel. Now, I continue the discussion by exploring control over transactions and products as it relates to IP protection.
Establishing and Maintaining Oversight
Requiring the manufacturer to maintain a designated facility for all work involving the transaction can reduce the risk of violations and simplify the monitoring and protection of the company’s IP. In all cases, the company should reserve the right to frequently audit the manufacturer’s facilities. If possible, the scope of these audit rights should extend enterprise-wide to ensure protection and containment of critical information. Read more
After deciding on the basic corporate or contractual structure, the company should decide how best to strategically divide the manufacturing process. In the outsourced manufacturing context, the best process involves not only efficient manufacture, but also the most effective process to mitigate potential trade secret risks. Read more
Once the company selects a potential outsourced manufacturing partner, it should design a transaction structure that reinforces its commercial expectations and the manufacturer’s contractual obligations. Specifically, the company should structure the outsourced manufacturing transaction in a manner best suited to protect the company’s key intellectual assets (both registered IP and unregistered IP like trade secrets and know-how). Transaction structure considerations include both the particular corporate and contractual form of the relationship, and how the company will delegate the manufacturing process to the outsourced manufacturer. Read more
Perhaps the single most important part of outsourced manufacturing is to select a trustworthy partner. A company should not enter into any transaction unless it has a good basis to believe that the manufacturer will be an acceptable partner. This requires rigorous due diligence, including:
- Background checks of the manufacturer’s principal officers, directors, and key personnel.
- Audits of the manufacturer’s financial statements.
- Inspections of the manufacturer’s facilities.
- Investigations of the manufacturer’s supply chain and trading partners.
A company’s internal controls may help to ensure proper:
- Vetting and selection of the prospective manufacturer during the due diligence process.
- Negotiation of the outsourced manufacturing relationship.
- Management of the outsourced manufacturing transaction and relationship with the manufacturer.
Nearly all manufacturing processes involve a significant number of intellectual assets. These assets may include registered intellectual property (designs, patents, copyrights, or trademarks) or unregistered trade secrets, know-how, confidential information, or other intangibles. Read more
There are two common categories of outsourced manufacturing: toll manufacturing and contract manufacturing. While both these manufacturing options have distinct and clear characteristics, their strategic advantage is their ability to provide customers with valuable ways to save both time and capital on their product line development. Read more
Since the beginning of the industrial age, companies have outsourced part of the manufacturing process to third-party providers. In the twentieth century, as manufacturing processes became more complex and distribution more global, this trend accelerated.