Remote work environments have become increasingly popular thanks to growing internet speeds and other technologies that have made remote working possible. The need to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in many companies looking into remote working as a permanent approach to cut overhead costs.
Even though it is an excellent option, remote work comes with its own set of challenges, with one of the biggest concerns for companies with remote workers being IP ownership. Business owners mistakenly believe they have IP rights related to their businesses by default; however, this is not always true.
To help you understand IP ownership in a remote work environment, here are different IPs and how remote work could affect their ownership.
Core IP Ownership Concerns In Remote Work Environments
Copyright protections are an important factor to consider in work environments because not all your business-related creations will have their IP rights belonging to you. Under copyright laws, the original creator of a creative work such as music, drawing, photograph, or map owns the copyrights to their creation.
However, there are a few exemptions. For example, if the creator was an employee at the time of creating the creative art and the creation was within their scope of employment.
If the creator of the creative piece was an independent contractor, they would have copyrights to their work and could file for infringement, for example, when the deal goes bad. If you have to hire an independent contractor to help you create a work of art, it would be best to have them transfer copyrights to the creations as part of the contract agreement.
Historically, most countries have awarded the patent to the first person to invent a patentable invention. But many countries have since moved away from this approach to adopt the first-to-file ownership structure.
In Canada, an employee is presumed to be the owner of their inventions and consequently receives patents for any inventions made during their employment. However, there are two exceptions to the rule. The first exemption is if there was an express agreement to the contrary.
The second exception is if the employee was hired expressly to invent. In these cases, the patent is awarded to the employer. So before engaging remote workers in creating inventions, it is best to ensure that all contracts are properly executed.
Trademarks don’t have employee-specific provisions. Instead, ownership arises from its first-time use in association with a specific product. So it is improbable that an employee will claim ownership of your trademarks.
However, ownership disputes could arise if an independent contractor claims copyrights to logos or other graphics that are part of your trademarks. So, it’s best to have the transfer of copyright as part of the contract agreement.
That way, they cannot claim ownership of the designs they created on your behalf. If you are planning to register trademark symbols on a global level and are unsure how to go about it, a law firm like HeerLaw, experts in intellectual property, can help take the burden off your shoulders.
Trade secrets are among the least known registrable IP rights. Often, trade secrets are only applicable to patentable technologies. For a business’s trade secrets to be eligible for protection, the information in question must be a secret, and the business owner must prove that they derive value from the information being a secret.
Also, it must be information that is not generally known or that can be easily known and that the owner makes a considerable effort to keep secret. Regarding remote work, it’s not the ownership of trade secrets that may be the primary concern but the risk of compromising the secrets in the remote environment.
The most effective way of ensuring that your trade secrets stay confidential in remote work environments is by investing in an infrastructure that does not compromise the security of your secrets. Also, you may need a policy on what remote employees can and cannot do when handling sensitive company information.
Last Thoughts About IP Concerns
Remote work can come with great benefits, but as for everything else, you need to do it right. Here are the main IP concerns you need to consider to ensure the best performance and out for your project. And a healthy and safe work enviroment for your employees, so that they can fully focus on their tasks and avoid unecessary, and dangerous mistakes. So it’s time to get to study and improve your remote work environment to stand out competitors and grow your business!