Are you running a startup which deals with products and services involving some degree of technical and intellectual work? If yes, have you ever thought about the flow of information among employees, third parties, and clients which is secret and essential for your business? You need to re-think and design around agreements and corporate structure to safeguard your intellectual property interests. Here are some tips to make you start thinking!
It is an obvious event that you have made your employees sign an employment agreement detailing their salary structure and scope of work. It is a common task to add confidentiality or not to disclose clause into the agreement safeguarding leakages of your trade secrets and essential business information. It is very essential for you to add an intellectual property clause in the agreement stating that any intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, designs) generated by employees within the scope of employment and work will be assigned to the company. Even though you are hiring them for money and automatically all Intellectual Property is assigned to the company in theory, though case laws have not developed so much in India to ascertain this fact with surety.
Scope of Work Document with clients
A scope of work document signing before starting any client’s work is a good practice. It is similarly a good practice to outline an Intellectual Property clause stating what deliverable is intellectual property of client and what belongs to you.
Third Party Agreements
Startups mostly run into collaborations with other startups, distributors or research organizations. It is yet again essential to add an Intellectual Property clause in these collaboration agreements before-hand stating who owns what piece of Intellectual Property at the end of the day.
Partnership Deed or Memorandum of Association
Startups usually form a partnership firm or incorporate their firm as a private limited company. To do so, you have to prepare a partnership deed or Memorandum of Association. We usually see an Intellectual Property clause missing from these business foundational documents and it’s a great degree of concern. What if your partner leaves and asks that I created this brand and I want equal rights over company’s trademarks and patents? Having equal rights over Intellectual Property (IP) will make him/her have a veto power on what you do or don’t do with this IP that you built together over the years even after he leaves the firm.
Start thinking over these issues and you might come up with more case-scenarios where you need to protect your IP. Getting all these agreements and safe-guards in place takes hassle for 2 -3 weeks while dealing a lawyer and in-house manager. Though once done, you will never have to bother so much. This exercise makes you confident and relaxed, generates awareness among your employees on IP and confidential materials, and makes your investors happy and gain trust in your business methods.
INNOVACCER (Innovation Accelerated) is an innovation management and acceleration company focused and dedicated to provide high quality innovation management services to accelerate every step of an innovation life-cycle. InnovAccer was founded with a vision of people in the fields of Intellectual Property, Business Innovation, and Technology to change and accelerate the creation of innovation ecosystem in India. InnovAccer’s team comes from a varied background of engineers graduated from IITs, intellectual property specialists graduated from Franklin Pierce Law Center, USA, analysts, statisticians, and business innovation experts.