Whether you’re a start-up business or an existing business, protecting your intellectual property is vital. Intellectual property includes your trade secrets, customer lists, recipes, inventions, and much more. If your business is not using all of the six agreements described in this article, your intellectual property may be at risk of exposure or theft.
(1) Non-Disclosure and Trade Secret Protection Agreements
This type of agreement places a restriction on the disclosure of any confidential company information or trade secrets by current or former employees.
(2) Non-Solicitation Agreements
Non-solicitation agreements restrict an employee from taking current employees or customers with them when they leave the company. Without this type of agreement, your best customers and employees are at risk.
(3) Agreements Concerning a Former Employer’s Trade Secrets
When you a hire a new employee, you want to make sure he or she does not bring his former employer’s trade secrets with him or her in a way that could subject you to liability. This type of agreement will restrict your employees from using or bringing to your company any trade secrets owned by another company.
(4) Computer Use and Access Provisions
Appropriate use of computers is vital in this age. These types of agreements will govern what an employee can and cannot do on company computers, cell phones, and email accounts, including the disclosure of trade secrets or other confidential information. By putting proper guidelines into place, you reduce the risk of liability and the exposure of proprietary information.
(5) Social Media Policies
More and more business are correctly recognizing the importance of a well drafted social media policy. Not only does this policy establish proper guidelines for social media use by employees, but it will also make it clear that any company social media accounts are the sole property of the company. The recent case of PhoneDog, LLC v. Kravitz, which involved an ownership dispute between an employer and former employee over a Twitter account, demonstrated that the lack of a clear ownership provision can lead to costly litigation. In addition, over the past year the National Labor Relations Board has found several social media policies to violate the National Labor Relations Act. One thing is for certain – a clear and well drafted social media policy is essential for 2013.
(6) Invention Assignment Agreements
An employer’s ownership right in patentable material varies from copyrightable material. If an employee creates a copyrightable work within the scope of his or her employment, the employer will generally own the copyright. The default rule for patents, however, is that the individual inventor will own the work. Therefore, if your business wants the ownership rights in inventions created by your employees, including the right to sell them, an invention assignment agreement assigning those rights to you is a must.