Internal Brand Protection: Why might your employees steal your intellectual property?

Internal Brand Protection

Preserving your brand requires protecting your intellectual property. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warns that insider threat of the theft of intellectual property causes far more damage and is much harder to detect than threats from the outside. The most efficient brand protection starts with understanding employee motivations for stealing your trade secrets. The FBI lists more than a dozen personal factors that lead to employee theft of intellectual property. These factors fall into three broad areas: money, emotions and working conditions.


Money causes employees to steal in two ways. Some people always want more of it and some people always need more of it. This suggests that intellectual property theft occurs at all wage levels. A large debt to income ratio may leave a person overwhelmed to the point that they need the money that another person or firm would pay for your trade secrets.


Revenge is the most obvious emotion that may drive an employee to steal intellectual property, but it is not the only one. Overwhelming feelings of empathy towards smaller companies and feelings of loyalty towards other individuals or businesses can also drive an employee to spy for outsiders. Finally, some people compulsively steal intellectual property. Consider the employee who steals office supplies because he is a kleptomaniac. This compulsion also drives an intellectual property thief.

Working Conditions

The way the working conditions may lead to a loss of intellectual property ties in with the emotional motivations. Happy employees are less likely to steal from their employees and well-paid employees are happy employees. In fact, a 2012 study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that when employers pay more in retail stores, employees are less likely to steal inventory. The study also reveals that higher wages promote feelings of loyalty and a desire to keep a high-paying job.

Santoni Investigations & Backgrounds offers brand protection by assessing potential insider threats to your business. Contact us today for a consultation.