Dow Corning Uses Classification Labels to Help Protect Intellectual Property

Learn how Dow Corning uses Fortra Data Classification Solutions to protect the most valuable assets of their business – their intellectual property.

Company Profile

Dow Corning is a multinational corporation headquartered in Midland, Michigan, USA. Dow Corning specializes in silicone and silicone-based technology, offering more than 10,000 products and services. Dow Corning is equally owned by The Dow Chemical Company and Corning, Inc., (formerly Corning Glass Works).


With over $6 billion U.S. in sales generated last year, and  some 10,000 products available to more than 30,000 global customers in a broad range of industries, Dow Corning understands the strategic significance of the proper handling of sensitive information inside and outside the organization. With more than 4,000 patents globally, protecting its intellectual property (IP) was a business imperative.

“The business world has changed, and IP protection risks can vary from country to country,” says Mark Gandy, Enterprise Architect at Dow Corning. “We’re expanding geographically and collaborating more and more with partners, so we need to handle and protect content in a way that’s compliant both with local regulations and with our own IP-protection policies.”

An overall IP protection program to lock down access to valuable information was a strategic objective for the organization. Given  the size of Dow Corning, it was a major challenge to secure the thousands of emails and documents related to marketing, R&D  and other sensitive topics.

The Dow Corning team had identified the need for employees to protection program. Without labeling, it is too easy for  employees to inadvertently print, forward or save, and then leak sensitive information. In looking for a solution, Dow Corning identified four major  success factors:

  • User experience - The solution had to be easy to use and integrate with employee’s normal workflows. In this case, that meant integrating with the Microsoft Office® programs that are used company-wide to create, manage, and share documents.
  • Operational excellence - Dow Corning wanted to deploy and support minimal additional technology infrastructure, as a way to minimize any increases in ongoing IT costs.
  • Corporate policy  - The company needed to ensure it protected content globally based on the various legal entities of Dow Corning that would be doing the classifying.
  • Scalability -  Dow Corning required a solution that could easily support the company’s worldwide operations, including all 10,000 employees.

The Solution

Dow Corning recognized that an enterprise-wide solution was the only  way to solve the problem. They started with a vision of a global IP protection strategy that would link all company emails and documents into a labeling standard. After creating an in-house labeling solution, they found it entailed much more than software development and quickly became out-dated and unstructured.  As Dow Corning wanted the global solution to incorporate the company’s existing technology investments, they decided to purchase a commercial off-the-shelf product.

“This solution enabled us to ensure we could support the multiple labels required for user adoption, which is a linchpin in the success of our overall IP protection strategy.” The Fortra Data Classification (DCS) toolbar prompts the user to classify each email and document as it is created, and labels the message with the appropriate classification. Although the toolbar is capable of applying specific document-protection options to email automatically, Dow Corning is currently having users set protection options manually.

The solution also integrates with the RIM BlackBerry™ to ensure proper information protection and labeling on handheld devices. At Dow Corning, the metadata created by DCS ensures that each email and document is handled appropriately no matter where it goes throughout the enterprise

The Benefits

Dow Corning now has a clear and consistent global standard for handling email and document information with the application of labels. By using DCS, employees are able to easily share information while following the company’s security policy which dictates how intellectual property must be protected.

Ease of Use

The new solution integrates seamlessly into employee’s existing workflow when sending an email, ensuring that everyone understands how information is to be handled. “The solution is so easy to use that we don’t really have to train people; we’ll just send a communication telling them that the capability is available.” Tight integration with Microsoft Office programs further enhances the user acceptance and adoption of the solution at Dow Corning. “Employees often struggle with questions such as ‘Can I share this document?’ and ‘How do I protect it?’’’, said Gandy. “Through integration with programs that people already know and use, Fortra Message Classification and DC S for Microsoft Office put compliance with IP-protection "We selected Fortra Message Classification™ and DCS for Microsoft Office™ as they offered an integrated, end-to-end enterprise solution that could adapt to our future needs." Mark Gandy Enterprise Architect, Dow Corning policies at employees’ fingertips. Information security is becoming increasingly more important in today’s global business climate, and this approach will help people do a good job in a complicated world.”


Minimal Added Infrastructure and Complexity

The company is able to support all 10,000 users around the globe with minimal added infrastructure and complexity by taking advantage of its existing Microsoft environment and its planned deployment of Office Professional. “Fortra Message Classification and DCS for Microsoft Office were assessed and approved for enterprise-wide use in less than 90 days,” said Gandy. “We have been very impressed with Fortra's responsiveness and support, and they have felt like true partners in our deployment success

Low Total Cost of Ownership

These benefits have helped Dow Corning minimize its total cost of ownership. “The solution’s ease of use, low training costs, ease of management, scalability, and integration with existing IT assets will all help keep total costs to a minimum,” said Gandy. “It’s hard to measure return on investment for such a project, but I think it’s fair to say that the value of such a solution will far exceed its costs. In today’s global business climate, the ability to protect our intellectual property is a necessity, not a luxury.”