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I spy with my beady eye ...

2 Oct 2014

Physical IP theft

The overnight theft of an entire wall from an eco-house being contructed in Christchurch raises the possibility that competitors wanted to find out how the construction company is prefabricating the panels with such good insulation properties - in other words, they have allegedly stolen the intellectual property by stealing a clever wall, presumably with the intent to duplicate the technology and perhaps sabotage the rightful IP owner's business.

So it was cybertage.

Deconstructing a competitor's product to figure out how it works and how it was made is common practice in many product markets, although usually there's no need to steal the product: the IP thief can simply purchase it legitimately.

Sometimes (as with new car models prior to their launch), still photographs or videos of the product from the testing grounds are sufficient to steal a march on the competitor, hence physical security around the product (testing ground site access controls and fake vehicle panels to conceal its shape) can be an important IP control.

Even better for the unethical competitor is to steal the design blueprints, engineering drawings and specifications direct from the source, for example by placing a mole in the competitor's organization, bribing a worker to steal the information, or hacking the systems.  They can reduce their risks and costs still further by exploiting the patent information published for patented products and hoping that the IP owners either don't notice, don't care, or don't have the resources for a full-on legal battle.

Anyway, I'm sure the building company whose wall technology appears to have been stolen will be watching the market closely for indications that a competitor is planning to introduce eco-buildings with remarkably good heat insulation ...

Gary (Gary@isect.com)

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