Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


Guidance for employers: safeguarding your IP

Published 01.11.08 at 13:05

You must always insist upon having an employment agreement that contains a clause preventing employees from making use of any confidential knowledge/information gained during the course of employment. This is known as a 'restrictive covenant'. This will offer far better protection than traditional IP rights.

However, the agreement must be reasonable in terms of how long it lasts and what geographical areas it stops ex-employees from entering into competing businesses in. If the agreement is binding you can get an injunction from the court to stop the ex-employee competing with you. If the agreement is not reasonable (in 'restraint of trade') the courts will not consider it to be legally binding. If you do not have a written agreement you will need to prove that the information is confidential and is going to be used in breach of confidence (see the confidentiality section in contracts and the confidentiality factsheet). This is far harder.

Practical steps: Always have a restrictive covenant in your employment agreement restricting the use of know-how, trade secrets and IP. However, ensure that it is reasonable in length and scope so you can rely upon it. For an example of a confidentiality agreement applied to employees, see the confidentiality section in contracts.

Content supplied by Daniel McClean, solicitor at Withers LLP. Photo credit: Travis Isaacs


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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