4 min read
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are one of the most important protections a company can invest in. The reason is simple.
An IPR, such as a patent or a trademark, allows its owner the exclusive right to commercialize and, in some cases, prohibit other companies from commercializing on the same idea. It is the value of exclusivity that dramatically increases the worth of a company. For this reason, companies must prioritize keeping track of who owns the IP when working with outside parties, such as consultants and contractors.
The question of IP ownership has become increasingly complicated. As it has become more common to outsource parts of the innovation process or otherwise collaborate with other parties, it has also become more difficult to determine who owns the output. In the worst case, companies can risk being left without significant rights to the intellectual property they have invested in.
Luckily there are several mitigations companies can do to make sure that they maintain the rights to their IP:
The first step every company should take before starting to work with a third party is to compose an inventory of every IP asset the company owns. In the event of a lawsuit, where it is unclear who owns what IP, an IP inventory can prove to be an invaluable asset in proving ownership.
Patents, trademarks and copyrights should be documented and stored in a safe place. Unfortunately, little legal framework exists around the protection of trade secrets such as client and supplier lists, algorithms, positive and negative know-how (things that didn’t work). Therefore, companies should exercise extra measures around protecting this type of IP. In the IP inventory, every trade secret should be labeled as a trade secret and access to it should be limited and recorded, especially if it’s another party. Should an IP inventory be kept digitally, a company must make sure that extra security measures, such as encryption, are taken.
Every company should have at least the following in their legal arsenal:
Companies should consider implementing the following:
A company’s IP is one of the most valuable assets a company has and should be protected accordingly. Documenting and protecting IP alongside with a conscious IP culture will significantly reduce the risk of loss of ownership.