Establishing International Intellectual Property Management

For most companies, intellectual property is the lifeblood of their business, whether it’s a major product that they sell or a cornerstone of their branding. As a result, potential issues like copyright infringement are taken very seriously. However, things start to get a bit murkier when we look at international intellectual property management. Different countries may have different laws, making it difficult to determine what applies to what situation. In addition, many international teams are comprised of freelancers, making it difficult to determine exactly who owns a given IP. Here is some key insight on navigating this web with your intellectual property ownership.

Intellectual Property Concerns In The Global Marketplace

The growing importance of intellectual property is due to an overall shift in business focus over the last few decades. In the past, a lot of the value of a company may have been tied up as tangible items, like office space, equipment, and so on. Now, though, it’s the intangible concepts that carry the bulk of importance. This includes concepts like:

  • Products/processes
  • Written/creative work
  • Designs
  • Logos/visual branding
  • Trade secrets

Indeed, if you were to follow a given company and ask its patrons what they value, they’re likely going to say it’s either the end product, marketing method, or the method they go about their business. All of this falls under intellectual property. The bulk of the time, this is a key part of businesses managing to stay on the cutting edge.

However, this doesn’t mean that intellectual property issues don’t happen. A lot of the time, this becomes a legal question of who is entitled to an idea under the law. For example, there is an ongoing issue between the U.S. and China about Chinese companies stealing American IP en masse. This is largely believed to be due to a lack of enforcement on the Chinese end. This highlights a major issue with intellectual property in the global marketplace. If two different countries have two different sets of IP standards and enforcement, how can one enforce their IP elsewhere?

Intellectual Property Ownership And Global Employment

This brings us to intellectual property ownership in an employment context. Conventionally, when an employee is hired on at a company, they either have to sign an agreement regarding IP or sign an employment agreement with relevant clauses included. In essence, this means that when they create a piece of intellectual property in the service of the company, the rights to it revert to the company, rather than the person. This way, if the worker ends up leaving the company later on, they don’t end up taking the property with them.

However, when going into an international context, this becomes a lot more difficult. Expanding operations into a new country means having to go through the local bureaucracy as well as having to deal with taxes in the new area. Many companies try to work around this by hiring international freelancers in order to start their initial operations in new markets. The problem is that if there’s no employment agreement in place, it suddenly becomes a lot less clear who exactly owns a piece of intellectual property the employee creates. In addition, if you try to put one together as an employer, it may be rejected due to labor laws in the country you’re trying to work in.

To avoid being caught in this situation, you want to look at services like a Global Employer of Record as an alternative. Agreements with independent contracts are generally made on a case-to-case basis. By comparison, a GEOR agreement affords the employers all the rights of a conventional employer/employee relationship. So, if a disgruntled employee were to try and claim ownership of an IP after leaving your company, you could reference the GEOR agreement to protect yourself. Technically, they would be a legal worker for the service, but all IP they would create would revert to your company.

A Solution To Your Global Intellectual Property Issues

There have been several debates throughout history on whether or not the employee or the employer has rights to a given piece of intellectual property. If there isn’t a written agreement in place, it can be even more difficult to determine this, as both parties may have a cause behind their claims. Part of the reason that this is so difficult with international markets is due to the high prevalence of freelancers. Freelance contracts are often different and less stringent than employment contracts, leading your valuable intellectual property under dubious ownership.
In general, handling employment and compliance internationally can be more complex than many companies expect. However, this doesn’t mean that you should pass over it completely, considering the advantages of international expansion. At Acumen International, our services are specifically designed to help international companies avoid many of these issues. Foreigners are able to maintain their intellectual property rights in international business, no matter what type of members they decide to bring on their team. Along with this, it’s also a lot faster than the other alternative, setting up a foreign entity.

Reach out to us today for more information.

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