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Bend it Like Beckham/Apple on Intellectual Property Issues - And Fire Everyone Who Breaches...

Intellectual Property.  Your company has it.  Some more than others, but still - you have intellectual property (otherwise known as "IP" in the biz). Which begs the question - "what do you do when an employee breaches your IP?".

Still with me?  Good.  Let's make the topic sexier than the white paper you were expecting with that lead. If you're Apple (and a lot of you out there are fanboys/fangirls of the big A), the reaction to a breach of intellectual property is prettyDarth_vader_harry_potter simple.  It's a four-part play as follows:

1. Find an IP breach involving an employee.

2. Fire the employee in question quickly and without regard to messy situational details. Zero tolerance, baby.

3. Parade the firing around like the Romans used to do when a leader of nation they were at war with was killed - head on spike (which is to say you would make sure all were aware in your company).

4. Rinse.  Repeat.

It's true.  Apple doesn't play when it comes to IP security.  Here's a quick description of the IP/security philosophy in light of the recent iPhone leak (with a prototype found in a bar):

"Until now, Apple's legendary security has always worked perfectly. Perhaps there was a blurry factory photo here, or some last-minute information strategically whispered to some friendly media there. But when it comes to the big stuff, everything is airtight. At their Cupertino campus, any gadget or computer that is worth protecting is behind armored doors, with security locks with codes that change every few minutes. Prototypes are bolted to desks. Hidden in these labs, hardware, software and industrial-design elves toil separately on the same devices, without really having the complete picture of the final product.

And hidden in every corner, the Apple secret police, a team of people with a single mission: To make sure nobody speaks. And if there's a leak, hunt down the traitor, and escort him out of the building. Using lockdowns and other fear tactics, these men in black are the last line of defense against any sneaky eyes. The Gran Jefe Steve trusts them to avoid Apple's worst nightmare: The leak of a strategic product that could cost them millions of dollars in free marketing promotion. One that would make them lose control of the product news cycle.

But the fact is that there's no perfect security. Not when humans are involved. Humans that can lose things. You know, like the next generation iPhone."

All of which begs an interesting question for people who love the talent biz.  Is the zero tolerance policy Apple has good people practice or an overreaching, heavy-handed practice of a paranoid culture?

Here's my vote. You're not parinoid if they're really out to get you.

Welcome to the intersection of HR and business, kids.  Apple makes its bones by controlling the flow of information leading up to the next big Steve Jobs product release presentation.  Billions of dollars are on the line, so enforcing the zero tolerance policy related to leaks of IP makes business sense.  Without question, some employees caught on the periphery of this policy probably get canned as a result, but you know they're aware of the risks of being in the gray area related to IP leaks.  I'm for the Apple policy of truth.

"Loose Lips sink ships".  "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs".  "We're going to play them one game at a time, and the good lord willing, it'll all work out". 

So what do you think?  You love your phone, Apple loves to fire people for IP breaches without regard to messy things called "reasons" or "explanations", Thumbs up or thumbs down on the Apple IP Breach policy?  Would you rather have your iPhone or have a kinder, gentler Apple?

Note - I guest posted with this one over at Punk Rock HR while Laurie is on vacation. Thought I'd share it here with anyone who didn't see it... Go check out Punk Rock HR if you're not familar with it as a Capitalist reader...



The Apple guy that lost the iPhone needed to be fired. I don't care if it was an accident or not. If you value IP, and clearly Apple's policies are in place to protect IP, you need to protect it.

People make mistakes all the time. The thing about mistakes is there are consequences. If it is a big mistake and puts the business at risk you need to protect the business.

By not firing the Apple employee you would send a message to the organization (especially in this very public situation) that you don't really value IP.

Beth Dockins-Director Customer Service, Scotts Miracle-Gro

Ditto Michelle. While the rest of us typically archive the company goldmine on our PC or legal pad locked in a desk drawer - at Apple, it could be in your pocket. They sell technology and when you leave it in the bar, well you know the rest of the story.
Kris- would love a tweetmeme widget below each post for faster retweets. Keep plugging Dude.

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