Intellectual Property

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Intellectual Property

We can assist you in protecting your intellectual property, taking action against a party who has infringed your intellectual property or defending a claim against you for intellectual property infringement.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (‘IP’) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, names, images and designs used in commerce. IP also includes confidential information and commercial secrets.

A commercial secret, or trade secret, is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument or pattern that is not generally known and gives a business an economic advantage over competitors or customers. In commerce, confidential information may include things such as pricing and costing information and client lists.

Theft of this kind of information, is a real risk facing businesses today. IP theft costs businesses billions of dollars each year, whether it is from loss of innovative information or from lost clients to competitors as a result of confidential information being in the wrong hands.

How we can help?

Preventing IP Infringement

  • Protecting commercially sensitive information by way of agreement with new and existing employees and others who have access to that information.
  • Educating employees about the risks and consequences of unauthorised copying or removing information from work computers. 
  • Identifying risky behaviour before IP theft happens. Employees should be trained and encouraged to watch out for unauthorised conduct engaged in by a co-worker.
  • Implementing IT security policies such as controlling and monitoring the use of storage devices, such as USB drives and external hard disks; and controlling and monitoring e-mails on work computers, mobile phones and tablet devices.
  • Implementing internet security systems on work computers, mobile phones and tablets that block web-based e-mail servers, as employees can access their personal e-mails through the web and avoid e-mail monitoring systems that may be in place.
  • Implementing security systems for commercially sensitive information accessible by higher-level employees. For example, requiring usernames and passwords and logging information about when commercially sensitive information has been accessed and by whom.
  • Revoking employee’s access to information before termination so that final vengeful acts of dissemination of information can be avoided.

Infringement and Disputes

  • If your intellectual property has been infringed we can take action to prevent further infringement and seek compensation from the party who has infringed your IP.
  • If a claim has been made against you in relation to IP infringement we can defend this claim for you.

Some of the services we have provided for our clients include reviewing employment contracts and confidentiality agreements. We can add clauses to your existing contract to protect confidential or commercially sensitive information.

We can also provide you with advice on injunctions and commencing litigation.  Because our offices are not located in the CBD our rates are substantially lower, often up to 20% lower, than most commercial law firms.

Stealing Company Secrets

A case was recently heard in Australia, in which an employee of a company illegally took confidential information. The Court held that the employee breached his employment contract, the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and Corporations Act 2001, when he downloaded company files before resigning and then used the information to gain an advantage for himself and his new employer. The Judge ordered the employee to pay $50,000 in damages, as well as his former employer’s legal costs, with the intention that this decision act as a deterrent for similar copyright breaches in the future.

Stealing LinkedIn Connections

A case was heard in the United States where it was ruled that LinkedIn contacts could be considered a trade secret. The manager of a company emailed himself a list of LinkedIn contacts that he was in charge of, before the termination of his employment. He then formed a new business, which was competing with his former employer. The Judge found that electronic contact lists could be considered a trade secret, despite the opposite being argued by the employee.

A similar case based on this issue is currently being heard in Australia in which a former employee used a recruitment company’s candidate database to populate her LinkedIn contacts. The decision made in this case should clear up Australia’s legal position on the classification of contact lists as intellectual property, as it is currently not clear.

What does this mean for your business?

If you believe an employee has infringed your business’ intellectual property rights, you may be able to take action against them.

Some of the services we have provided for our clients include reviewing employment contracts. We can add clauses to your existing contract to protect intellectual property, confidential or commercially sensitive information.

 

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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