Managing Your Most Valuable Assets
Your employees create most of the new intellectual property (IP) that your company will own. Depending on their roles, they are also likely to acquire knowledge of company-owned trade secrets and other confidential details. It is therefore important that your employees are clear on who owns this IP and similar information, and what their rights and responsibilities are to their employer. This is achieved through a strong agreement between the employee and the company, usually taking the form of including IP provisions within an employment contract.
You may use casual or contract workers and other self-employed people in the normal course of business. If so, you may not own the IP that they create, and will have less control over any knowledge they take away from the company. The same applies to suppliers, including external agencies that create copyright-protected promotional assets such as literature, photographs and websites. Under these circumstances, you may not own the copyright by default (unless you have commissioned photographs, paintings or engravings in Singapore).
To be sure you own the rights, they need to be assigned to your company. It is often necessary and beneficial to work with others, and sometimes this extends to sharing or jointly creating new IP. In such situations, it is important to have the right agreements in place to protect both parties and ensure any IP involved can be optimally protected and defended. To manage risk in these situations, you will need to use non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality undertakings and IP assignment forms.
This guide discusses IP management processes in general. There is another guide. Making Best Use of All Your Valuable Assets in this series that covers the management processes required to identify and capture new intellectual property.