PAWDOC: Confidentiality, ownership and intellectual property rights

When working for an organisation it is widely recognised that you will need a collection of documents to support your work. In building this collection, any explicit IPR regulations, or stipulations imposed by document owners, should always be complied with; and this includes very highly confidential documents which are probably best left out of the collection. However, if you operate your personal filing system on the basis that it is only for your own personal use, many of the IPR and Ownership issues may be overcome.

When leaving an organisation, individuals may or may not want to take some documents with them depending on the type of profession, stage in their career, their next job, etc.. However, in deciding what to take, they must follow explicit rules and regulations; and they should leave behind any material which is likely to give a significant competitive advantage to competitors.

Specific questions relating to this aspect are answered below. Note that the status of each answer will fall into one of the following 5 categories: Not Started, Ideas Formed, Experience Gained, Partially Answered, Fully Answered.

Q52. How should confidential documents be handled in an electronic filing system?

2001 Answer: Not started: Hardcopy documents can be stored in a vault and the associated reference numbers can point to the vault (Wilson 1992: 2.8).

2019 Answer: Partially answered: The most effective way of dealing with very highly confidential documents is not to include them at all in your personal electronic filing system. However, if you do want to record their existence, they could be included in your index in such a way that the Reference Number or Movement Status field points to their residence in a secure location. If you must have possession of a document itself, then it will be necessary to secure its existence on your laptop or other personal device with a combination of passwords and encryption – provided that satisfies any rules or regulations associated with it.

Q53. How do ownership and IPR issues constrain the operation of a personal electronic filing system

2001 Answer: Not started

2019 Answer: Partially answered: One of the most important principles to apply when assembling a personal document collection is that you deliberately restrict it to your own personal use.  This probably overcomes many of the IPR and Ownership issues related to documents that you haven’t created yourself. With that principle in place, I believe it is recognised that, while one is working for an organisation, you are entitled to have a collection of documents relevant to your work. Having said all that, it is essential to comply with any particular IPR regulations, or constraints stipulated by specific document owners, that you become aware of.

Q54. What IPR considerations have to be taken into account when moving from one organization to another

2001 Answer: Not started

2019 Answer: Partially answered: While one is working for an organisation, you are usually entitled to have a collection of documents relevant to your work. When leaving an organisation, I always felt that, as a consultant, there was a tacit understanding that you were able to keep copies of the documents you had created; but that there was a grey area in which the removal of large quantities of documents only partially related to one’s work, would cause concerns – probably because there was a fear that they might give some advantage to competitors. Herein lies a dilemma for the diligent personal filer: on the one hand it seems a shame to waste all the effort one has put into assembling and indexing a collection of documents, and on the other hand there is the knowledge that ostensibly taking it away when you leave an organisation might encourage a knee jerk reaction to prevent you removing it. To address this issue, two principles should be applied: first, comply with any explicit regulations concerning specific documents or information; and second, leave behind any documents or information that you believe would give a competitor a significant advantage.

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