Charlotte Intellectual Property Attorneys
Helping You Protect Your Business’s Proprietary Assets
In a competitive field, a company’s intellectual property becomes one of its most valuable assets. Your proprietary information is what distinguishes your products, services, and branding from rivals. These unique advantages are an invaluable resource and must be fiercely protected through every means possible.
Failing to take proactive steps to protect intellectual property can lead to theft and exploitation, potentially resulting in damage to your brand identity and your ability to compete in a crowded marketplace. Our Charlotte intellectual property lawyers at Oakhurst Legal Group can help evaluate your business’s intellectual property and advise how best to protect it. Forms of protection we can assist you with include copyrights, trademarks, and nondisclosure agreements.
Protecting Trade Secrets Through Nondisclosure Agreements
Your employees, vendors, and visitors to your facility will likely at some point be privy to trade secrets, a form of intellectual property. This proprietary information is what drives your business, makes it unique, and gives you a competitive advantage. It can include your processes, formulas, and resources that are specific and essential to your company’s success.
In the course of their work, many will come into contact with one or more trade secrets. You will need to take proactive steps in order to prevent them from sharing, distributing, or leaking this proprietary information to the public or competitors.
The use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) is one effective way to protect trade secrets. As its name would imply, an NDA restricts an individual’s an ability to share or disclose privileged information as defined under the agreement. Employees will often be obligated to sign an NDA as part of the hiring process. You can also employ them with independent contractors, vendors, and other third-party companies with which you conduct business.
Depending on the nature of your facility and the trade secrets that need to be protected, it may be wise to even require visitors, clients, and prospective employees and contractors to sign NDAs. Consider a scenario where a potential hire comes into a company’s office. An executive meets with them and shares trade secrets as part of the meeting, as that information will be relevant to their position should they be hired. The candidate is ultimately not hired, but because they did not sign an NDA, there is nothing legally stopping them from sharing the proprietary information they learned in the meeting.
An NDA is a contract that must be carefully worded in order to be legally enforceable. In order to ensure your trade secrets remain protected, all contracts should be drafted and reviewed by qualified legal professionals.
Utilizing Restrictive Covenant Agreements to Protect Intellectual Property
If your business is in an especially competitive industry, you may be concerned about poaching, where your employees are sought out and hired away by rivals. While NDA agreements can be useful in preventing the sharing of trade secrets, it may not be enough to fully protect your company’s interests if key members of your team begin working for competitors. You will want to ensure proprietary company knowledge and strategies are not taken to your business opponents.
A solution to combat this problem is the use of restrictive covenant agreements, which are a type of noncompete agreement. These contracts will set limitations on where and when an employee can work for companies in the same industry after separating from your business. For full protection, they generally need to be negotiated and agreed to when an employee is hired. You may be able to convince a departing employee to sign a restrictive covenant agreement in exchange for a generous severance package.
An employee may be restricted from working for competitors in a specific industry, within a certain geographical range, for a certain amount of time. An employee might not be able to work for competitors in a 100-mile radius of a former employer’s headquarters for a period of 2 years, for example.
North Carolina is one of several states that legally enforces terms of restrictive covenant agreements. However, they have historically been heavily scrutinized when challenged. Should a former employee dispute the enforceability of a restrictive covenant agreement, the court will attempt to decide if the scope of the terms goes beyond protecting your legitimate need to protect your business. Terms that overreach will likely be shot down.
Our Charlotte intellectual property attorneys can help you draft enforceable restrictive covenant agreements. We are familiar with how these sorts of disputes are decided and can balance the need to pass muster with a state court and the urgency of protecting your proprietary information.
Using Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents to Protect Your Intellectual Property
Understanding the difference between copyrights, trademarks, and patents can be confusing. Each category is a form of protection for your intellectual property.
Patents are used to protect inventions. If your company has developed unique devices, machinery, or software, a patent can be filed to protect your ownership of the appliance for a certain number of years. This will prevent competitors from making, selling, or using your patented intellectual property without your permission, though you will have to publish a compelling, publicly filed explanation of the details of the invention.
Copyrights protect “creative works” and are paramount to the entertainment industry. Your business will need copyrights to retain the exclusive rights to publish, distribute, display, and transmit many types of intellectual property, including films, television shows, books, music recordings, and any other type of tangible creative expression.
Trademarks are intended specifically for company names, branding, and slogans. They can also apply to product names and slogans. Pursuing and protecting trademarks is an important piece of running a successful company, as you will need to ensure knockoff or counterfeit products are not diluting your business’s brand identity.
Our team can perform a thorough review of all of your company’s assets and determine what type of protection your intellectual property will need. We are familiar with the processes of filing for and obtaining patents, copyright protections, and trademark protections. We are also prepared to help you fight to protect your business if and when disputes over your protected intellectual property arise.
Get the Legal Support You Need To Protect Your Intellectual Property
Your intellectual property is undoubtedly one of the most valuable pieces of your company, and you should do everything possible to protect it. Our Charlotte intellectual property lawyers at Oakhurst Legal Group understand the importance of proactive action and can advise on a plan to make sure your business’s proprietary assets are secure. In situations where your intellectual property rights have been violated, we can vigorously fight to defend your business.