Of the 300 organisations surveyed by law firm DLA, less than 40% knew the value of their intellectual property or their software and only 52% said they had a documented policy.
The legal action launched by SCO claiming copyright on certain parts of Linux code has raised the profile of intellectual property and highlighted grey areas of the law.
Jeremy Dickerson, head of the intellectual property group at DLA, said, "The most important thing for an IT department or business is that any software they create is automatically covered by copyright, including the source. An IT director needs to have a formal system for identifying all technology that is created."
The next decision is to decide whether the software has a commercial use and could be licensed to other companies.
According to DLA, an intellectual property policy should include registration, enforcement, identification and creation, commercial exploitation and a valuation.