What Rights Do Employees Have to Intellectual Property in The Workplace?
While it seems that employers have a great deal of power when it comes to intellectual property in the workplace, there are limits. Employee intellectual property agreements are influenced in part by state law, so noncompliant agreements are unlikely to hold up in court. Further, if the creation of new intellectual property does not pass the work-for-hire test and no legal agreement has been signed assigning those rights to the employer, then ownership is retained by the employee who created it.
“Employers need to remember that an employee using work equipment to create IP is not reason enough to claim the intellectual property,” said Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVoIP. “So, if you employ a developer to create a system for you, but in the process [they] use the work computer and any other resource to create a social media platform that blows up, it does not mean you own any part of that social media platform.”
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Although many intellectual property laws favor the employer, employees have rights. If you are concerned about an agreement you’ve signed with your employer, consult with an attorney to determine whether it is indeed valid under your state’s intellectual property laws. As an employer, you should always consult with your attorney when devising any employee intellectual property agreements to ensure you are abiding by state and federal law.
Key takeaway: Know your rights. Not all situations favor the employer when it comes to claiming ownership of intellectual property created in the workplace or with company resources.