Despite businesses opening soon, much of the workforce will still be working from home for the foreseeable future. A dispersed workforce has created several new unconsidered intellectual property issues. While larger issues are paramount, it is important to also address some of these new IP issues. Failure to do so could result in loss of certain rights that may be more important to a business now more than ever. For companies that have not already addressed these issues, now is the appropriate time to take a step back to address them. The key actions every company should be taking right now include:
- Ensure innovations get documented: Even with workforces dispersed, inventing is still occurring. There are a number of good collaboration tools readily available. These tools help with the inventing process. It is, however, as important as ever to document the inventions in a complete and robust manner. Be sure to provide invention disclosure forms to your employees, encourage them to complete them promptly and, upon completion, provide them to the appropriately assigned person within your organization. Otherwise, these inventions could be lost.
- Protect trade secrets with a telecommuting work force: Be sure that your employees have the appropriate data security tools, that they utilize those tools, and that they take the same precautions as they would when in the office. Be vigilant when using online collaboration tools to ensure unsuspecting parties do not have access. Limit the disclosure and sharing of your trade secret information. Use encryption tools when you do share the information.
- Avoid inadvertent disclosures of inventions: Make sure that you take precautions against disclosing inventions and ideas before having the opportunity to file a patent application on them. Make sure your employees are not disclosing these concepts in video-conferencing sessions with non-employees, which could constitute a public disclosure. Again, be sure to be vigilant when using online collaboration tools.
- Continue monitoring your trademarks: Now is not the time to forget about your branding. Continue to use or consider utilizing a watch service to be alerted to anyone filing on a similar trademark. Trademarks are important assets that need to be protected. Also consider using online tools to monitor usage of your marks online. You want to find any potential counterfeiters early.
- Executing intellectual property-related filing documents: Execute declarations, power of attorneys, assignments, and similar documents as soon as possible–don’t wait. Also, confirm whether originals are needed. Several patent offices have relaxed their rules and are not requiring originals during the pandemic. Additionally, ask if electronic signatures can be utilized. This may help expedite the process.
We are here to help with these issues and any other IP issues you may be facing. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.
- Todd A. Benni