Intellectual property is generated by the creative effort of individuals. From a business perspective, companies need to consider the identification and protection of these rights to ensure that ownership is retained by them where appropriate. This is particularly true where employees are creating original works and the Contract of Employment should therefore contain express terms which deal with Intellectual Property rights.
Intellectual property rights may be categorised as registered and unregistered rights. Unregistered rights include copyrights, design rights and database rights and these exist automatically. No registration or administration is required to create these rights. Therefore, during the ordinary course of their employment, employees may regularly create copyrights and other design rights on a day to day basis.
However, registered rights such as patents, registered designs and trademarks only exist once an appropriate registration procedure has been completed by businesses or employers. It is therefore important to ascertain who is the owner of the registered or unregistered right or to whom the right has been granted. Generally speaking, this will be the employer where the employee has created the item as part of their employment.
Where employees may be creating original works, it is therefore advisable for the contract of employment to reflect the fact that the employer will be deemed to be the owner of the intellectual property provided that the employee has created it as part of their employment.