The service industry is a tricky landscape, due to the fact that, often times, no tangible property is transferred back and forth. Sure, you may purchase a software program that comes on a disk, but in reality, you are merely purchasing the right to use that program, not the rights to the program itself. The service industry is a world dominated by intellectual property, and protecting yours should be your utmost goal.
First you must define if intellectual property is yours or not. Let’s say you hire an employee to create a software program for you. He creates it, puts his name on it, and hands it over to you. If left unchecked, both of you could walk away thinking that you own the rights to the software, but in reality, only the employer does. Other items may fall under the umbrella of “intellectual property” including trade secrets, client information, and more.
Your employees might have access to that information, but in order to legally prevent them from using that information to their own benefit, you must first get them to sign an employment contract informing them that they are not allowed to distribute any information gathered while under your employ.
As an employer, you should take pride in the knowledge, contacts, and experience you have accumulated over your years of doing business. Don’t risk letting that information out by avoiding employment contracts or other intellectual property agreements. Furthermore, don’t let subcontractors walk away with information you paid for, just because they created it. Understanding your rights as an employer is the first step towards protecting them.
The final step is having the foresight to create contracts which will legally protect you should the situation ever call for it.
Aaron Garcia is a project manager for MorePro Marketing, a search engine optimization company in Phoenix, AZ. For over 3 years he has worked with clients who understood the value of intellectual property and how to protect the information they work so hard to create.