If you've hired employees to create anything for you, whether it's pharmaceuticals or running shoes, you'll need an employee intellectual property policy to ensure that anything they create on company time remains under company ownership. You've probably taken measures to prevent theft or infringement from competitors or other outside sources, but have you considered who your employees might share sensitive company information with?
An employee intellectual property policy:
- Ensures that all employees understand that everything they design, create or innovate belongs to the company.
- Binds current or former employees from selling, disclosing or using as their own idea anything created while on the job.
- Helps your company comply with federal intellectual property law.
Start with an understanding of intellectual property lawBefore you can draft a comprehensive and legally binding corporate intellectual property policy, you need to know the laws regarding patents, trademarks and copyrights.
U.S. Copyright Law laws governing copyright law, for everything from sound recordings to designs. You can also keep an eye on the latest copyright regulations. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website includes a comprehensive law and policy section, which features international intellectual property information, federal laws and regulations, and patent and trademark policies, procedures and regulations. And at the World Intellectual Property Organization, find out what category of intellectual property your company's work falls under.
Use a sample intellectual property policy as a guideTo understand what goes into an intellectual property policy for business, it helps to look at sample intellectual property statement, either one in use by another company, or a basic sample intellectual property disclaimer you can adapt to your own organization.
Hire a patent lawyer or other intellectual property attorney to draft or review your policyThe surest way of protecting your company's intellectual property is to enlist the expertise of an intellectual property attorney. They can review your existing policy, or help you create one from scratch. They'll likely have created dozens of policies for other companies, and will be well-versed in federal intellectual property regulations as well as anything specific to your state or you industry. In legal documents, wording is crucial, so you don't want to risk losing the rights to a potentially lucrative invention because of a legal loophole.
U.S. Patent and Trade Office site.
- Intellectual property law differs among countries. If you have offices or employees in other countries, research international intellectual property law regulations, and make sure your employee agreement takes those into consideration.