Ways to Proactively Protect Your Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets
Intellectual property protection is vital to maintaining safeguards and secrecy for your most valuable business assets. IP can consist of many different parts, from logos and corporate identity to products, processes and client lists. Because the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act requires companies to take “reasonable measures” when protecting secret information, IP protection is even more important to establishing cause for action when it is stolen or misappropriated. Without taking steps to protect your property, you may not have legal remedies available.
Ways to Proactively Protect Your Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets include:
Trademarks and Copyrights – Whether it is industrial property, a work of authorship, or a product or service unique and identifiable to your brand, intellectual property can be just as, if not more, valuable than any physical asset owned by your company. As such, establishing and protecting such ideas and inventions through trademarks and copyrights becomes essential, especially in the internet age. When these safety measures are in place, your business is in a better position to enforce and defend copyrights and trademarks in matters of infringement.
Non-Compete / Non-Solicitation Agreements – The law allows for restrictions on employees or former employees who had access to trade secrets, client lists, or other propriety information unique and useful to your company. But to be legally enforceable under the Texas Business and Commercial Code, covenants not to compete have to be crafted carefully and reasonable in duration, scope, and geographic focus.
Confidentiality Agreements or NDAs – When they concern an employee, these agreements are similar to non-competes. However, non-competes and confidentiality agreements can also be used with independent contractors or in business-to-business relationships. It’s vital to put protections in place that are tailored to your specific situation, including joint ventures, contractual relationships, agents, and licensees.
Licensing or Technology Development Agreements – Technology licensing and development agreements are increasingly important to businesses in both Texas, across the United States and abroad, in industries including computer hardware and software, nanotech, biotech, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, bioinformatics, energy, and environmental technology. These agreements can include Licensing technology to or from another company or establishing a joint venture to develop technology. A very important, but often overlooked aspect of a joint-development arrangement is the ownership of any intellectual property rights arising out of the development work. There are a number of ways of resolving technology-ownership issues as long as a carefully drafted and enforceable agreement is in place.
Work-for-Hire Agreements – When an employee or a contracted party creates an intellectual work as part of his or her job, issues may arise as to whether the resulting work belongs to the employer. Employers need to protect themselves with a strong agreement that uses the work-for-hire doctrine to protect their intellectual property and address possible areas of concern, including the scope of the work. This can include work done in an employee's spare time, by freelance workers, and other situations.
As industry leaders who counsel businesses of all types and sizes, our Houston business attorneys at Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. have extensive experience helping clients protect, enforce and defend their intellectual property and trade secrets. If you wish to discuss your particular needs with a member of our legal team, contact us to request a consultation. To learn more on this subject and how our law firm can help, check out our business blogs on, “How Our Texas Law Firm Protects and Defends Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents”,“When Your New Employee Knows Too Much” and “Misappropriation of Trade Secrets Explained”.