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All companies in Northern Ireland will have intellectual property which they need to protect. These are assets which the company has taken time and money to produce and could be beneficial in someone’s else’s hands. Typical examples will be the brand, documents created by the company of value and client and customer data.
Most intellectual property in Northern Ireland is not registered, so it is protected by copyright or maintaining confidentiality. Employees can be a company’s best asset but also pose a risk because they have ready access to a company’s information.
There have been significant shifts in the employment market during the pandemic. Employees have reassessed their lives. Many have decided to work for themselves or go for a new job. The risk to their current employer is that they take a company’s intellectual property with them to give a competitive advantage. Once the cat is out of the bag, options become difficult. A company potentially has actions against a former employee for breach of confidence and/or a competitor for inducing the employee to breach contract. This type of action can be expensive and protracted.
As the employment market changes, employers need to be protractive against ex-employees and competitors taking unfair advantage of their intellectual property. As a minimum, steps that companies should take are:
At Cleaver Fulton Rankin we regularly help companies set up an appropriate regime to safeguard intellectual property. We also assist where a dispute arises. In this context, it could be a company that has lost intellectual property through an ex-employee, a company which has taken on a new employee and its previous employer claims it has also taken its intellectual property or an employee who a previous employer is pursuing because the employee has allegedly taken the company’s intellectual property or is in competition in breach of restrictive covenants.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance or advice.
This article has been produced for general information purposes, and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. For advice or information, please contact our Intellectual Property team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin.