Protecting Intellectual Property
Agreements with employees involve more than salary, benefits and agreed-upon vacation days. These agreements are a key component of ensuring that your company’s intellectual property (IP) is secured and protected. And IP is more than a patent for a better mousetrap or your secret formula for making cola. IP includes your patents, copyrights, trademarks, tradenames, business methods, customer lists, pricing terms and a whole host of other matters. Protecting some of these need formal filings with various government agencies, but almost all IP benefits from your having agreements with everyone in your company – even YOU – that clearly outlines the ownership of ideas and work product related to your business, and determines what current and former employees and officers can do with the knowledge they have obtained while working for your company, and what relationships they can have with your employees, customers and suppliers if they leave the company.
These agreements need to be comprehensive, but they also need to be reasonable – or else you may find it hard to bring on talented people in the future.
And by the way, don’t forget to have the founders sign these agreements. Any sophisticated lender or investor is going to review your agreements before investing in your company to make sure that your company’s IP is owned by the company.