Work-for-hire agreements and IP

by | Jul 23, 2015 | Law and Business

If your new product or service hinges on the work of employees, you need a work-for-hire agreement. In short, these agreements clearly delineate that any product developed by an employee becomes the intellectual property of the company and not the employee.
Without a work-for-hire agreement, you could be opening yourself up to a dispute about IP ownership with the person who created the product for you.
“Work made for hire,” as the U.S. Copyright Office calls it, can apply to a tangible product like software or it can apply to written work created by the employee. In general, these works belong to the company, but a clearly written agreement can help prevent any confusion or disputes about ownership.
Writer Tom Galvani outlines several questions that may arise when considering work-for-hire questions, including whether the worker is your employee or an independent contractor. Whether the work was created on-the-clock or during the worker’s free time could also impact whether the company or the employee owns the product. Galvani writes:

“The work-for-hire question is another reason for putting every agreement into writing. Unwritten assumptions can come back to bite you. Employees in particular don’t always understand the concept that their work is your property, so having them sign a contract helps make it clear who owns what.”

A well-written and clear work-for-hire agreement is a must for all small businesses.
To discuss the business agreements and contracts your emerging business should create, including employee agreements, contact EmergeCounsel today.


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