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Intellectual property and employees

Many employees create new materials and may not be aware that copyright in those materials is automatically protected and can belong to their employer.

It does not necessarily matter that they may have created the IP (wholly or in part) outside work hours, or without using company facilities or equipment. The deciding factor is whether they were performing official duties at the time of the IP's creation or whether the work is consistent with their role.

Employees should have a basic understanding of IP rights to ensure that they properly manage and control any IP they create and, where appropriate, they are recognised for their effort in creating new IP.

Where significant and potentially valuable IP is involved, it is wise for an employee to obtain their own independent specialist advice on IP ownership issues. Dealing with IP ownership in an open manner at an early stage is best, before you make significant and strategic business decisions, including financial commitments.

Employment (and consultant) contracts need to deal clearly with IP ownership issues to avoid any misunderstandings and to minimise the prospect of any legal disputes.