Intellectual property rights are valuable business assets which businesses rely on to gain and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace. They have the ability to provide high returns if they are leveraged upon and adequately protected. Examples of these assets include list of customers, sales tactics, business concepts, trade secrets, confidential information, invented or improved products, service methods or processes and product designs amongst others. They may be protected as trade secrets and business confidential information, designs, trademarks, copyrights and patent rights if they fulfil the requirements for each category of IP protection. These assets do not only require protection from the public or competitors but also employees who have access to and/or are involved in the creation of the assets in the course of employment. Exposing these assets to employees in the workplace without adequately implementing protective measures pose risks of intellectual property theft and infringement, which may result in low financial returns for a business and cause it to lose its competitive edge in the marketplace.
A major strategy for protecting these assets in the workplace is through the provision of intellectual property rights clauses in employment contracts. Intellectual property rights clauses are useful tools as they govern the relationship between an employer and employee in relation to the intellectual property assets of the employer and are legally binding and enforceable on the parties. Some of the essential intellectual property clauses include: