Intellectual property (IP) refers to the names of your products or brands, inventions, things you write or make, artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected by patents, copyright and trademarks, which allow people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create and helps to stop people staling or copying. World Intellectual Property Day happens annually on 26 April and this year we wanted to share a blog on how your small business can protects its intellectual property.
Authors Musab Hemsi and Andrew Richmond, Anderson and Strathern
IP is likely to be integral to the long-term viability and prosperity of your business and there are legal and practical steps which you can take to protect it.
Contract of Employment
Whilst UK legislation and case-law generally favours employers where there is doubt as to whether an employee or their employer owns IP rights in the fruits of their work, employers for whom protection of IP is critical should ensure that an express clause covering IP is included within the employment contract.
A typical IP clause will cover:
- Definitions – for example, what is an Employment Invention? Or, what are IP Rights?
- Employee’s obligations
- Waiver of moral rights
- No right to remuneration
- Assistance with infringement claims
In addition to an IP clause within the contract of employment, employers may wish to consider some less legal, yet more practical steps to shut down any potential infringements and the necessity to go to court to assert their IP rights.
Consider where your IP is stored:
- Devices such as printers, copiers and scanners all store the documents they process and are typically connected to your IT network and file management systems.
- Cloud-based applications may be either company managed or shadow IT.
- Employees may access work documents/emails on work issued or personal devices.
- Third-party systems may be used to share IP with suppliers, customers or other third-parties.
It is essential that:
- Proper policies and procedures are in place regarding storage and destruction of documents, to protect against unauthorised access.
- You know what employees are using in order to restrict unauthorised access.
- Education is provided to employees on proper handling of IP should also be in place.
- Businesses ensure that contracts with third-parties define how those parties must secure your IP and have controls to ensure this is done.
For Your Eyes Only
Data controls can be set up within your business’ file management systems to ensure that only those who absolutely need access to certain documents are given access.
Physical controls may also be put in place, by use of a secure room to store sensitive materials, again setting restrictions on who may be able to gain access.
Any business which places IP at its heart should also regularly assess of its infrastructure by way of testing and audits, so that the business may detect any potential vulnerabilities.
These practical steps can help protect IP within an employer’s business so that the enforcement of IP rights need not be necessary.
For more information on how your business can protect its IP, contact Musab Hemsi.
*We strive to do our best when supporting small business and their growth. Our business databases can give you information and data that can help you with advertising, market research, company information, and industry factsheets. If you have already taken the plunge, we would love for you to join us at a seminar, our workshops cover digital marketing, business model canvas and planning, demystifying taxes and intellectual property to name a few. Visit our events page or website for more information.