What is it and how do I protect it?
Intellectual property rights are valuable. They can define your business. They are an asset which can be used to raise finance in appropriate cases. The message is clear, as a business owner your duty is to protect the intellectual property of your business.
Intellectual property includes, logos, company branding, trade marks, copyright, business name,domain names. In short it encompasses the intellectual output of the business.
It is a wide area and we will confine ourselves to examining Intellectual property in the area of employment law and best practice.
Intellectual property rights and employees
Where staff are creating intellectual property at work, the postion is that this usually belongs to the employer. This covers all types of intellectual property from research to databases and beyond.
A grey area can arise where the work is created outside office hours or indirectly from another project. To avoid confusion, doubt and dispute, you should deal with this in the employment contract. The terms and conditions of employment should have a specific clause (or clauses) dealing with these issues. It should also cover the question of the moral rights to the work. The author generally retains the moral rights to the work unless assigned in the contract.
A record should be kept by the employee of all innovative work which they carry out on behalf of the employer. You should ensure that this is kept up to date.
What about freelance contractors and intellectual property?
Similar issues to those mentioned in the preceding paragraph can arise in relation to using a freelance contractor. You need to ensure that tyhe contract gives your business all rights to the use of the property. Otherwise you may be confined to a one off use for a particular campaign.
Keeping it private
In order to prevent the misuse or even loss of your intellectual property you need to take steps to keep the information secure until you can take the necessary legal steps to protect it.
This may involve confidentiality agreements , keeping the information secure, minimising access to it.
You should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the need to protect your intellectual property.
What steps should I take next?
Defending or enforcing a breach of intellectual property rights can be expensive. It is always better to avoid litigation where possible. Getting advice now can save you a fortune later.
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Image courtesyTraci Lawson