How to avoid intellectual property disputes

What do Sir Isaac Newton, an Indonesian monkey and Mike Tyson’s tattooist have in common? They all claimed someone had stolen their intellectual property.

Whatever business you are in, you need to be proactive to avoid disputes over ownership of intellectual property. These are some of the conflicts that can occur:

  • A dispute with a contractor: If you hire a contractor, you need to set the boundaries. If they design a new system for your business, is it their system, or yours? Can you continue to use this system without paying them? Can they take this system and sell it to another company?
  • A dispute with an employee: When someone is working for you, the work they produce usually belongs to you, their employer. You are paying them to produce this work. If they use information from your company to create something new in their evenings, it can be more complicated to establish who has ownership.
  • A dispute with an ex-employee: As we go through life, we acquire experience. Each new job we take on expands our expertise and knowledge. It would be unreasonable to expect an employee to empty their mind of everything they have learned with you when they move on. Defining what information they can and cannot use is complicated.
  • A dispute with an employee’s old company: You could unwittingly find yourself sued if your employee has used the information they acquired at a previous company.

An intellectual property dispute can be challenging to settle. That is why it is so important to legally establish who owns what when entering into any business relationship, be it with an employee or another company. The correct legal wording can be the difference between retaining your rights and losing them. A business litigation lawyer can help you avoid disputes and contest them when they do occur.