Do Employees Have Intellectual Property Rights?

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If an employee invents something new for their employer, who owns it? Usually an employment contract will lay out what happens in these types of situations, but sometimes it will not be exactly clear who owns a new intellectual property. This is when you might need the assistance of a Chesterfield County employment agreement attorney.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property can generally be broken down into four major categories. There are:

Copyrights: This is the right to a literary, musical, or artistic work.

Trademark: This can protect a word, logo, or even phrases used by a company in its marketing efforts.

Trade secrets: These are unique devices or techniques that a company uses to create its products or services.

Patents: These cover different types of inventions and allow a company or person to manufacture and sell their idea to others.

Depending on which industry you work in, it can be a part of your job to create new intellectual property for your employer. In most cases, you are not going to own what you create.

When Does an Employer Own a New Intellectual Property?

When an employee develops something new while they are working in their normal capacity, that intellectual property they have come up with is likely going to be considered the property of the employer. This is because they are using the employer’s resources and facilities and are completing an assigned task. The employee would not be doing anything to create a new IP without the employer’s say.

There can be a gray area though when an employee develops a new IP, but their actions are outside of their normal scope of employment. Maybe an engineering issue gets solved by someone in the marketing department. This can create confusion unless the employer has clearly laid out in an employment agreement that any newly created intellectual property belongs to them.

What Happens if a Contractor Develops a New IP?

This can be another area where companies have to be specific with their contracts. An independent contractor who creates a new intellectual property could own it if their contract with an employer did not cover new IPs and what becomes of them. If the contract does include an “ownership of discoveries” agreement or something similar, then the employer may be able to claim that intellectual property as their own.

Can State Employees Own Intellectual Property?

State employees normally cannot keep the rights to the IP they created during their working hours or during the normal scope of their employment. Even if they invent something while they are off the clock or dabbling in something that does not fall under their usual job description, they still might not own the IP because they used state-owned or controlled facilities.

Contact an Employment Lawyer

So if you think that you may have ownership over an intellectual property you created as an employee, contact Passero Employment Law. Our experienced attorney can take a look at your case and your employment agreement to see if you may have a claim to a newly created IP.

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