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Who owns your employee’s creative work?

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2022 | Intellectual Property |

These days, a lot of companies rely on the creativity of their employees and independent contractors as part of their business model, whether that means those employees are designing new products, creating new code or producing media for public consumption.

Does that mean that you can automatically exert ownership, then, over everything your employees create? Not exactly.

Advance agreements are important

While the law tends to favor employers when it comes to ownership over whatever an employee makes for their business, there are plenty of loopholes that can create problems. For example, an employee who doesn’t work directly with the widget your company makes might fiddle around with that widget in their garage and come up with a useful innovation. In a situation like that, your employee (not your business) could be the IP’s true owner.

To prevent problems, you need to have advance written agreements between you and your employees or contractors regarding any and all intellectual property. These agreements, known as assignments of invention, should give the company:

  • All rights for any invention related to the business
  • All rights for any IP along known or foreseeable lines of research
  • All rights for any inventions made using company equipment or materials
  • All rights for anything created using the company’s trade secrets
  • All rights for any intellectual property created on company time

By making such agreements conditional for employment, your company can eliminate the potential for claims that the employee wasn’t given proper consideration for their work. That can keep your business out of litigation down the road.

If you are in a dispute with an employee or former employee about who actually owns a piece of intellectual property, it’s best to get experienced legal guidance so that you know all your options.