Employment Contracts: should you include a clause about your company's IP?
Do you have an intellectual property (IP) clause for your employees? Do you know if the intellectual property created by your employees belongs to your company? Whether you are a small or large business, if you have employees you should have an employment contract and it should include an intellectual property clause.
So what is intellectual property? Your intellectual property is made up of your ideas, inventions, and creations in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields. It also includes the symbols, names, designs and models used by your business.
Including an intellectual property clause in your employees' contracts can help you:
- Safeguard your intellectual property
- Protect both you and your employees
- Protect yourself against litigation if a dispute arises over intellectual property rights
For example, if an employee creates a website, logo or an invention for your business, who owns the intellectual property? Setting the stage for ownership by including an intellectual property clause in your employment contracts can save your business money, time and future legal disputes. To get started, you'll need a clear idea of what kind of intellectual property assets you have in your business. Doing an intellectual property audit or inventory will help you identify what assets are important to your business and what you need to protect.
Other things to consider when tackling intellectual property issues in your workplace:
- Have a lawyer help you create your employment contract. You can also talk to an intellectual property specialist for opinions and information.
- If you have proprietary information (something that is not public knowledge, such as a trade secret), a confidentiality / non-disclosure agreement should be made.
- If copyright is involved, consider moral rights: asking the authors to waive their moral rights — this will give you full control of the work and is important with respect to commissioned work.
You can visit our What is intellectual property? page to learn about the types of intellectual property that can be protected in Canada. You can also visit the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's "Stand out from your competitors" page to learn about making intellectual property protection part of your business strategy.