You Ask, I Answer: IP Ownership of Assets at Work?

Sydney asks, “So I was let go from my job on Thursday due to budget cuts stemming from events being cancelled in all this craziness. I was wondering- what is the usual protocol in transferring creative materials? Like if I made the templates and took the photos, do I own them? Or are they company property since they were created/taken while I was employed by the company?”

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. If you are involved or about to be involved in a legal dispute, contact a qualified attorney.

In the United States – employment law will differ – most employee agreements state that anything you do for work is owned by work, under a legal term known as “work-for-hire”. Some places and some employee agreements are even more restrictive and say that anything you do while employed by the company, even on your personal time, is owned by the company. The only leverage you have is at the beginning of your employment; work with an attorney (maybe someone you went to school with and is willing to moonlight, if you can’t afford it otherwise) to craft an employment agreement that is more balanced and clearly delineates what’s yours and what’s the company’s.

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In today’s episode Sydney asks so I was let go from my job on Thursday due to budget cuts stemming from events being cancelled and all this craziness I was wondering what is usual protocol transferring creative materials like if I made templates and took photos do I own them? Or are they the company’s property since they were created or taken was employed by the company.

So, number one disclaimer, I am not a lawyer, I am an agreement play one on the internet.

If you are involved or about to be involved in a legal dispute, please contact a qualified attorney.

Do not do this stuff on your own unless you are a lawyer.

In the United States, and employment law differs all over the planet.

In some municipalities and localities, a law is much more favorable to workers in like France, for example, in other places like the United States law is almost entirely tilted in favor of the company in the United States.

Most employee agreements state that anything that you do for work is owned by work under a legal term called work for hire, as is true of employees as true contractors.

Pretty much true of any kind of work that’s being done some places and some employee agreements, I have seen this even more restrictive, and say that anything you do while employed by the company, even on your personal time, is owned by the company.

in one of my previous jobs, I was in negotiations with the company and having them go back and forth of my lawyer and their lawyer, because they had to had a clause in there saying anything that you happen to come up with that is that does well, even if it’s completely on your own time, is there’s like, Nope, not gonna fly.

And so, if you’re now just exiting that job, take a look at the company’s employee agreement, but I would almost guarantee that it says there’s a clause that says work for hire any intellectual property you created while employed at the company.

Add the direction of the company or during work hours or for work is owned by the company.

So you’re kind of out of luck there.

The only leverage that you have for this sort of thing is at the beginning of your employment before you sign the job offer is that’s that’s when you can say, Hey, I have some terms or conditions or ploy agreement, things I’d like to work in.

And as long as you have some power in the negotiation, meaning that the company wants you more than you want the company, you may be able to negotiate for that.

If the power if the balance of power is on the company side, there’s very little you can do can ask, and you should ask because it’s your right to ask, but you may not get what you want.

And if there are, you know, 20 people competing for a job and your employee agreement is another bit of work that costs the company time or money or resources.

It will it could be disadvantageous to your employment But if you do have that power, then work with a qualified attorney.

It doesn’t have to be a big law firm if you know somebody you went to college with, who became a lawyer and they’re willing to moonlight for, you know, beer and pizza or whatever.

craft an employee agreement that is more balanced and clearly delineates what’s yours and what’s the company’s, in my previous employee agreements, kind of a non issue now.

Because I own a company with my partner.

I stated these are the things that I own that I’m coming into this relationship with, and they will remain mine and that they are entirely my intellectual property.

And I specified something that worked out really well for me, which was anything that I do at work, at the direction of work at the direction of the company is owned by the company.

And that’s completely fair.

The company says, Hey, you work in marketing.

We need photos of this, go take photos of this.

Guess what? Work should own that, like that’s perfectly reasonable.

But by specifying at the direction of work, it means that if you come up with something even at work that the work did not direct you to do.

You may have some leverage about owning that intellectual property, even benefits work.

Again, I am not a lawyer, my lawyer came up with this, your lawyer may disagree or may have a different perspective and that’s okay.

You should get it checked out by your lawyer to make sure that it is as valid.

Make sure to when you’re working with a lawyer that is a lawyer that is well versed in two things, intellectual property law, and employment law, those two things together will help you craft a workable agreement because intellectual property law itself is its own set of minefields, and then employment law is a minefield if you have an employee agreement, That he says that anything you do his own way work whether or not you’re at work.

You’re kind of stuck, right? You can’t go and build a side hustle.

I mean not? Well, you can, but you risk being sued by work for any benefit that you got from it.

Another thing to keep an eye on is if you are using your personal assets, like social media accounts and things for the benefit of work.

Again, make sure that you’re clear in your employee agreement, and that work is equally clear that those are separate that those are separate properties.

Do you have a podcast that you do if you’re sending an email newsletter, make sure that that that is not covered in the employee agreement, because if it is, then you may accidentally end up turning over a personal asset you built to work I have seen that happen, especially social media counts, someone will set up an account and it’s their personality that maybe even there picture, but they do it for work.

And then when the time comes to part ways, they end up having to leave an account that they thought was a personal social media account behind because it was a work for hire.

So be clear about that stuff.

Employment Law is tricky.

Intellectual Property Law is tricky.

So make sure that you have stuff all separate.

Now, when it comes to finding new employment, and needing a portfolio of stuff, the best thing you can do is just ask your employer, hey, I’m not going to try and resell this or reuse this, but I want to be able to use this for finding new work.

Are you okay with that? Do it in writing, do everything in writing.

Never, ever, ever do anything in the legal arena that is not in writing or otherwise recorded in a admissible in court fashion.

But ask your employer Hey, can I use this for finding a new job? Some employers will be fine with that.

Some employers may ask you to sign something saying you won’t You know, you won’t sell it.

And other employees will say, Nope, that’s covered under our nondisclosure agreement, you may not.

So be prepared for that.

If that is the case.

Once your employment is terminated, then mock some stuff up, right, create some stuff that is similar to the work that you did, but obviously not using the previous companies brands or intellectual property and then you have the ability to use that portfolio instead.

So I expect these questions will come up a lot as the economy changes.

So keep it in mind And remember, you have no leverage once you sign the employee agreement.

Once you sign on the dotted line, your leverage is gone.

So you have to introduce the legal questions about intellectual property ownership before you sign on the dotted line.

If you have follow up questions, leave them below.

Again, remember, disclosure disclaimer, I am not an attorney.

I don’t even play one on YouTube.

But happy to answer questions as best as I can.

Can within the domain I can please subscribe to the YouTube channel on the newsletter.

I’ll talk to you soon take care want help solving your company’s data analytics and digital marketing problems? This is Trust insights.ai and let us know how we can help you


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