At first blush an audit sounds expensive, distracting and unnecessary. Let’s face it, we live in the age of the long tail. Over the past few years, things people would have previously given only a remote chance of coming to pass seem to be happening on a regular basis. What’s more, the pace of change and disruption in business and in the personal world is so great, it is almost impossible to keep up. It seems that whatever you are doing today will have to be radically altered very soon. With all this change most of us are running just to stay in place — so any distraction from the daily chores of simply keeping up needs a powerful justification. I would argue however, that the frenetic pace of business life is precisely why audits are so important. Just as mindfulness is rightly understood as being key to a centered life, trade secret audits are essential to continued success as a business. Read more
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
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.
By David Cohen & Donal O’Connell
“China national charged with stealing trade secrets” – U.S. Justice Department
“Chinese battery expert is charged with stealing trade secrets from US employer, as he prepared to join mainland firm” – South China Morning PostRead more