Theft of intellectual property


from advanced technology projects



By Robert Chapman

United Kingdom




Today’s projects are now almost unrecognisable from projects of 25 years ago. They have benefited from developments in, (for instance): project management methodologies, decision analysis, maturity models, the use of common project management software, taxonomies, work breakdown structures, project controls, risk management, reporting formats, databases, benefits analysis, stakeholder management, optimism bias calculations and use of the internet. While the internet has brought significant and widespread improvements in, for instance, connectivity, communication and the sharing of knowledge, the widespread use of emails, websites and electronic money transfers has exposed businesses to very serious cyber security threats and the potential loss of highly sensitive data.

Measures of project success

Projects are now facing a tidal wave of cyberattacks and the theft of intellectual property (IP). As a consequence, the measures of success for innovative technology projects (ITPs) undertaken by today’s businesses must go beyond the conventional success factors of completing the project deliverables, (within defined cost, time and quality parameters), attaining the identified benefits and satisfying the project sponsor. Given the context of contemporary projects, measures of success must include defending against the theft of IP by cyber security breaches perpetrated by external threat actors (as they are commonly described) or by rogue project team members, (see Figure 1). The technology developed by ITPs is highly prized, given its commercial value. Innovation is occurring in all industries from electric planes and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to artificial intelligence, facial recognition technology, electric cars, vaccines, medicines, fifth generation mobile networks (5G), renewable energy and space exploration. Typically, businesses developing new technology do not work in isolation but are supported by partners, contractors and suppliers. Each one of these companies present another layer of complexity in that if they suffer a loss of IP by a cybersecurity breach or by a rogue employee, they may in turn compromise (in some cases irreparably) the project they are supporting.

Figure 1: Theft of intellectual property by cyber security breaches or rogue employees

Intellectual property

The definitions of intellectual property and the methods adopted for its protection are common across the developed world. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines IP as creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Similarly, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines IP as ideas, inventions, and creative expressions which can include everything from trade secrets and proprietary products and parts to movies, music, and software.  Trade secrets are commonly defined as information, (including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process), that derives independent economic value from not being generally known to other persons (and cannot be readily ascertainable by proper means). The UK government defines IP as something that individuals create using their minds. The definition provided by the online Cambridge Dictionary is more expansive and states “IP describes someone’s idea, invention, creation, etc., that can be protected by law from being copied by someone else”.  Likewise, the Canadian government describes IP as including inventions, new technologies, new brands, original software, novel designs and unique processes. In a common vein, the Australian Government defines IP as the property of the mind, proprietary knowledge and the production of new ideas.


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How to cite this article: Chapman, R. J. (2021). “Theft of intellectual property from advanced technology projects”; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/pmwj102-Feb2021-Chapman-Theft-of-intellectual-property-from-advanced-technology-projects3.pdf

About the Author

Robert J. Chapman, PhD

United Kingdom


Dr. Robert Chapman is a Director of Dr Chapman and Associates Limited. He is the author of “Simple Tools and Techniques for Enterprise Risk Management, 2nd Edition”, which is recommended reading by the UK’s Institute of Risk Management.  A discount of 30% can be obtained for the hardback version through the publishers John Wiley and Sons using the promotional code RMD30 and the URL: https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Simple+Tools+and+Techniques+for+Enterprise+Risk+Management %2C+2nd+Edition-p-9781119989974.  Select country of residence in the tool bar.

The discount is available from: 2/4/2021 to 2/28/2022

Dr. Chapman can be reached by email at riskappetite@outlook.com