Emerald Technology Nov 24, 2021 4:36:24 PM 6 min read

Overcoming "Copyright pirates, brand impersonators, patent floaters and trade thieves."

Interested in knowing who actually owns what you create at work? Or are you unsure of your employees’ or contractors’ rights over their inventions whilst working for you?

Let’s get straight into it…

Intellectual property can be described as the rights to ownership of intangible creations of human intellect. It covers patents for inventions, copyright, and ancillary rights. Which, in simple terms, means creations of your mind.

What’s going on?


For technology vendors and start-ups, intellectual property drives the business. With almost 90% of start-ups failing, getting ahead wherever possible is essential. Protecting your IP can reap rewards, potentially making your start-up look more attractive to investors.

Don’t just take our word for it! Forbes have found that, when obtaining VC funding and competing against key players, protecting IP is crucial to success and can catapult companies to global recognition.

With the increase in remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things can arguably enter a grey area of IP ownership. With less monitoring, there is a heightened focus on the increased prevalence of employer IP ownership, which is predicted to generate more disputes in employer and employee ownership.

Did you know?

In 2021, It has been identified that trademark disputes increased by 13.7% and 1.4 million industrial design applications were filed (WIPO, 2021.) It is known that Universities, startups and inventors make up a large proportion of communities that appealed and created legislative proposals, but it was the big tech firms of Silicon Valley that took the win in being the strongest proponents of the legislative proposals.


Contractors vs Full Time Employees (FTEs)


What actually is the difference?

Do you want your employees to have more autonomy and flexibility, whilst saving the costs of lengthy onboarding and training processes? Contractors may be the best fit for you.

However, though contractors will open up access to top-tier talent, they cause a huge dilemma for many organisations, especially SMEs, by increasing the risk of IP being compromised.

Full time employees (FTEs) require a salary, benefits, and a detailed training process to ensure the employee and company goals are aligned. However, they exclusively work for your organisation, so no need to worry about your trade secrets being exposed.

Alongside this, misclassifying a worker can have major consequences, such as legal disputes, penalties and fines. These monetary and legal repercussions can jeopardise an organisation's reputation, as well as more broadly resulting in loss of revenue for governments.


There is potential risk to:

Untitled design (67)


To begin, let’s dive into the risks around Copyright. This will be familiar to you and covers logos, written copy, web design, photographs, videos, etc. Copyright ownership varies depending on the type of employee. With FTEs, the copyright belongs to the employer. With contractors, if there is no contract that clearly states ownership, the contractor who creates the original works will have ownership over the copyright.

Employers - don’t worry, we have you covered. If you still choose to engage contractors, you should implement a ‘work for hire’ agreement as a solution to copyrighting disputes.

Another risk to your IP involves Patents. This refers to protecting a technical invention and essentially means you exclusively control everything including who can make, use or sell your product or process. It is highly recommended that inventors, startups and creatives obtain patent protection, as employers cannot rely on assumptions of ownership.

Are you thinking, “I pay my employees or contractors, surely I own the IP?” This is a common pitfall but unfortunately, offering compensation to freelancers does not always ensure or vest in ownership of an invention for the company. However, most industrial design legislation recognises that valuable exchanges, such as a salary, imply ownership. Therefore, as an employer, you are protected by having FTEs.

Last but not least, let’s talk about Trademarks, which are easily recognised as company or product names, symbols, words, sounds or shapes. The purpose of trademarks is chiefly to differentiate organisations in the market and avoid repetition.

Organisations with no registered trademark run the risk of damaging their brand reputation by not protecting their products or services against brand impersonators. For startups with global ambitions, protecting trademarks at inception will avoid any future trademark infringement cases. It should be a vital part of your business strategy.

Protecting your IP is fundamental to guarding your brand, products, or services, and choosing the right people is critical to safeguarding the success of your business. Whether you need help finding talent or payrolling your perfect FTE, or simply some advice on protecting your IP when expanding into new territories, reach out to our fantastic team to see how they can help.