Many businesses develop because they have a unique idea which becomes the centre of profit generation and financial security. Your Intellectual Property (IP) can be the development of a unique product or a unique idea. It can be bought, sold, licensed out or left to family members as part of your estate. Protecting your IP is safeguarding your and your business's financial future. How then do you ensure that your IP is protected from theft, either internally or externally?
David Henderson, Managing Director of Uniquest, a leading research commercialisation company, says “Increasingly, a company’s competitiveness is defined by the innovations and ideas it comes up with. IP is a critical asset and it is not fully recognised in many Australian companies at the moment.” Considering you are sharing your ideas and the development of those ideas are often in partnership with staff members , he adds “You need to have the right policies and contracts in place to capture ideas and innovations as they are developed by members of staff.”
A partnership with your lawyer is essential and should be established very early in the life of your business for many reasons. From the moment you employ staff, their contracts need to reflect the expectations of their work with your firm’s IP through a clearly worded confidentiality and IP agreement. A clear understanding should be set that non-compliance may be reason for dismissal. A non-compete clause should also be considered to counter the knowledge bleed should a staff member leave your employment to work for a competitor. As research and development is carried out, you should regularly identify areas to consider for further documentation and protection. Set up a system to ensure you are mapping the progression of new ideas or products. Document and regularly update the progress in a register noting authors, creation dates and development process. Whilst staff members may be working on the development of a new product and their ideas may be the reason for a particular advancement, with the appropriate contractual arrangements, ownership of the IP remains with the company for whom the staff member/s work.
In a world which now focuses heavily on the internet if you are considering selling a product or service you have developed via a website, ensure you have consulted your lawyer to establish the correct website protection, covering your product and marketing. Your IP will be exposed to an international market and there may be others out there keen to exploit a new idea which does not have the correct legal protection to keep it under your banner.
Every business should consider the development of a partnership with their lawyer. (See You and your lawyer Part 3 – Working with your lawyer.) Such a partnership allows you as the business owner to access a professional mentor and advisor who can be objective and help guide you through all of the pitfalls and traps of doing business including protecting your IP. Your lawyer can undertake the work required to ensure you have appropriate protection of your IP and can pinpoint areas you may not have even thought of which could become an issue as your business grows and gains increased exposure.
Dooley & Associates offer a Free Business Health Check that can help identify relevant issues and considerations for the creation and protection of IP and all other major legal issues that all businesses should be considering. One of our legal team will come to your premises to assess and discuss your needs and suggest areas you may need to consider for the future. Contact us for further information.Back