Sometimes an employee can invent something or improve a process, and generally these developments are considered to be new intellectual property. Who owns the intellectual property is not always clear though. Does the employee who made the advancement own it? Does the employer who gave them the resources own it? An Atlanta employment agreements attorney from our firm may be able to help you clear things up.
What is Considered Intellectual Property?
First, it is important to go over what can be considered intellectual property. The main types to be concerned about are:
- Trade secrets
These are all potentially valuable properties that can increase the value of a business. So it makes sense that, for the most part, businesses would want to hang onto the intellectual property developed by their employees. What does the law say though?
Do Employers Own Any New Intellectual Property That Employees Develop?
For the most part, the law comes down on the side of the employer here. If something new is developed at their business, using their resources, as a part of an employee’s normal job duties, then the intellectual property is going to belong to the employer.
An employer can also lay things out clearly in an employment contract. They can make it apparent that anything worked on for the company belongs to the company. So even if an employee develops something new, they should not expect to own it and be allowed to license it elsewhere or profit off of it in any way.
When Can Intellectual Property Belong to an Employee?
There are some exceptions to this though. It is possible for an employee to own the IP they developed on the job if it was not something related to their normal job duties. For example, an employee of yours finds a new way to improve your manufacturing process. They are not working in manufacturing or engineering though. They work in another department, and this is not within the scope of their normal job duties.
Because it is not something that was developed during their normal work duties, it can be argued that this intellectual property should belong to the worker instead of the company. It all comes down to the contract between the employee and the employer. If their contract clearly states that the employer owns all inventions or discoveries, then the new IP goes to the employer. If the contract does not state that, the employee may have a right to it.
Contact Our Law Firm Today
If you have any questions about intellectual property that you may have ownership over, do not delay. Contact Ben Barrett Law and schedule a consultation. We can take a closer look at your situation and see if there is anything our attorneys can do to help you.