By E.K. Koh, VP of Solutions at NextLabs |

The direct financial costs include future loss of revenue when trade secrets are stolen today. According to the Battelle Foundation report “2013 Global R&D Funding Forecast”, the financial costs of intellectual property theft – internal and external – are compounded over time. When trade secrets are stolen, so is the future revenue that would come from licensing and sales of the research and of the products created.

An example of future revenue that would be lost according to Battelle:  For every USD $1 spent on R&D, almost USD $3 is added in economic activity to a company’s bottom line within the same year. Looking farther down the road, between USD $16 and USD $69 dollars over 10 years is generated by the initial $1 investment in R&D”.

In the manufacturing industry, product lifecycle management (PLM) environments are particularly vulnerable to intellectual property (IP) theft because PLM software is relatively new for traditional manufacturing companies that are at the early stages of institutionalizing the software.

In addition to theft of IP, at risk are a corporation’s trade secrets, internal communications and private exchanges with partners and suppliers, decades of research, bills-of-materials, strategic planning and pricing documents, orders and bills of lading, product testing and more.

In Sandeep Chopra’s blog post “Challenges to Secure Product Collaboration in PLM Applications, he discussed the growing challenges caused by innovation in product sharing technologies, particularly PLM applications. Today’s blog post continues on that line by looking at the relationship to PLM globalization.

We can all agree that to succeed in today’s business climate, companies must global – from OEMs to end-users. The mandate to ‘go global’ is driving the need for opening corporate PLM environments to global collaborative product development/design (CPD) through an extended enterprise. CPD is valuable because it comprises business strategies, development processes and applications that unite disparate organizations for the co-creation of work product.

But, what can be done to protect data in PLM environments using CPD? One of the killer solutions available is an entitlement manager which works with leading PLM systems to extend the system’s native authorization model to control and protect product data across the product lifecycle. A rights management tool is also helpful if it can automate the application of rights protection to product data as they are shared across PLM, CAD and visualization systems between partners worldwide.

Rights management for JT is particularly useful. As an example, when a draft design file in basic geometry is used for the collaborative design process, it is usually presented in a neutral file format known at JT. JT is used for redline and mark-ups to expand on ideas (eventually the basis for patents).

Protecting designs at the data level is the best means to safeguard IP and trade secrets in a global supply chain.