Legal and regulatory discussions for Competitive Intelligence practitioners
Legal standards should be firm back bone of any competitive intelligence function in any organization. Discuss with other CI practitioners and experts how to handle the various legal and ethical situations.
Researching about a competitor I find quite a number of documents on their web site (directly and via web search) that are labeled “strictly confidential”.
How would you propose to handle those in your analysis work, sharing internally and/or saving, archiving, disseminating further?
The files are publicly accessible and contain data and information suitable for competition profile content as well as some technical information on products and applications.
Is anyone experienced in handling such situations?
Thanks for any input, Jens
As license agreements with competitive intelligence providers need to be made transparent to internal users there is still no guarantee that occasional violation or plain ignorance might occur. Violating license agreements with information and intelligence carriers can result in severe legal punishment and great loss of reputation and funds depending on the size and substance of such contracts.
Regardless how market & competitive intelligence is being distributed throughout an organization nobody can be in full control of how employees utilize or further broadcast the material. Electronic copies of market intelligence can spread quickly these days and even paper copies of industry reports and market studies are produced and distributed, circulated many times over – so it is essential to the sender, producer or anyone else involved to comply with the written agreements between the provider of that competitive intelligence and the organization using it.
But how can one possibly control the flow of hard copies, email or any other dissemination method for information and intelligence?
But as with compliance situations for corporate governance, Sarbanes Oxley, SEC regulations and many others an organization can make participating employees accountable for non-compliance and this seems to be a pretty practical way.
In order to be granted a subscription access code, password or any other login permission or physical access to market & competitive intelligence users should be asked to agree to a license agreement first. This could be done in several ways:
Electronically (e.g. via vote buttons within Microsoft Office Outlook)
Physically by filling out a compliance sheet
Externally with first log-in at an intelligence provider’s login page
Either way, it needs to be made sure though that the license measures the users need to comply to are being made understood to the subscriber in detail. In order to ensure this important communication element the organization needs to prepare valid documentation as hand-out’s (for pre-read or post-agreement purposes), coaching sessions run by either the legal department, the procurement group or the competitive intelligence office could support the effort most effectively.
Also the subscriber needs to be made aware of the legal consequences to him/her if the contract is violated. Therefore a combination of the legal department, procurement staff (who might have negotiated the contract with the market intelligence provider and closed the purchase), Human Resources and the intelligence unit would be highly effective and trustworthy to back up the process.