Data Security & IP 8 min

Intellectual property and invention rights for global teams: What every company needs to know

December 30, 2020
Preston Wickersham


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When everyone works in the same office, intellectual property rights are fairly straightforward. Employees produce work on company time, using company property, at the company’s office, and that work belongs to the company. This traditional structure insulates businesses from most claims against their IP and invention rights.

Remote work changes the dynamic by introducing new vulnerabilities. That’s not to say companies should avoid hiring employees in other countries: on the contrary, a global workforce is an essential strength for companies to remain competitive, even small businesses. However, companies should be cautious to avoid unnecessary risk while growing their global teams.

As the top global employment solutions provider, Remote helps businesses with workers in dozens of countries protect their IP from both internal and external vulnerabilities. Let’s look at the challenges of international laws and examine how Remote provides the best IP and invention rights protection in the industry.

Are you sure your IP is really yours?

Which companies should care about IP and invention rights with remote workers?

The short answer: all of them. If you have workers abroad, you need to be concerned about protecting your IP and invention rights. Even if you don’t believe you have much intellectual property, you probably do. Your brand, for example, is part of your intellectual property.

Certain businesses should pay special attention to IP rights:

  • Tech. IP and invention rights for tech companies can be complicated. Many countries lack the proper regulations to account for all the different types of tech IP and methods of creation. Businesses working with foreign engineers, programmers, product managers, and other tech talent must be especially vigilant.

  • Finance. Every highly regulated industry requires the highest levels of protection across the board. In finance, companies working with new clients often go through internal audits, including the levels of protections for IP.

  • Energy. Invention rights are especially important for energy companies. Drawing the line between what belongs to the company and what belongs to employees can help businesses in this sector avoid costly legal battles and negative press.

  • Manufacturing. In manufacturing, every piece of machinery is filled with a variety of different types of IP and protected inventions. Manufacturing companies exercise enormous caution to prevent industrial espionage, so why wouldn’t these same companies take every precaution to protect their IP?

  • Startups considering liquidity events. Startups should be especially careful regarding invention rights and IP. That goes double for startups looking at a liquidity event, like an acquisition or IPO. The due diligence required to prepare for such an event not only includes evaluations of IP protections but also evaluations of relationships with employees and contractors. The last thing a startup needs before an IPO is uncertainty regarding ownership of the work it has created.

These are only a few examples of situations where IP and invention rights protections are essential. Now that it’s easier than ever for companies of all sizes to employ international workers, every startup should take IP protection seriously from the beginning to avoid major headaches down the road.

What are the dangers of poor IP protection abroad?

First, it is vital to understand that intellectual property laws vary from country to country. The approach a company uses to protect its IP and invention rights in one country may not work in another. Failure to understand, respect, and follow the laws of another country could result in loss of protections for the company’s IP and invention rights.

Losing these protections can lead to a host of problems: some small, others catastrophic. For example:

  • You could lose deals. Security is more important than ever. Partners want to work with companies that have robust protections in place. If you cannot promise potential customers that you own all you say you do (and will continue to do so), you could lose major deals you would have otherwise won.

  • You could fail an audit. Are you looking at a liquidity event, such as a sale or an IPO? Are you subject to inspection from regulators? If so, you cannot afford to leave your intellectual property and invention rights to chance.

  • You could damage your reputation. No company wants to be in the news for the wrong reason. An accusation from an employee or contractor that the company stole IP is definitely the wrong reason. With the proper protections in place, though, disputes end quietly before things get ugly.

  • You could get dragged into a costly legal battle. Without proper protections regarding remote workers in foreign countries, you could find yourself fighting in another country’s court system to keep your own IP. These battles can be difficult to win, especially in countries where laws on creation favor creators over companies.

In some countries, intellectual property rights default to the creator over the commissioner. So, if your company works with a contractor in another country, the intellectual property for the work that contractor creates may default to the contractor if the contract has any weaknesses. Employment contracts tend to be more secure than contractor agreements, but companies can still lose IP and invention rights protections in foreign countries in some instances.

The worst danger, however, arises when a company believes its IP is secure when it is not. Some global employment solutions providers rely on third parties, passing the IP of their customers back and forth between multiple places. This is one of the clearest advantages of an owned-entity global employment solution over a partner-dependent global employment solution.

How Remote protects your IP and invention rights around the world

Failing to protect your IP and invention rights comes with consequences. On the other hand, successfully protecting those rights insulates your business from harm while empowering you to grow your global team with confidence.

Remote offers the most secure, most reliable IP and invention rights protections in the industry. In fact, Remote’s global employment solution is so strong, we actually offer a higher level of protection than you could achieve through a direct transfer of IP from your international employees to your company.

Learn how Remote protects your intellectual property around the world with Remote IP Guard.

It may sound strange, but because countries have different laws on how IP enters and exits the country, Remote’s global employment solution can provide greater security than a direct employee-to-company international transfer.

Remote is able to offer the highest level of protection because:

We own our own in-country entities.

Some global employment solutions providers do not own their own entities. Instead, they rely on partners to handle the workload on their behalf. Not only is this model more expensive for customers, but it also means your IP gets passed through multiple parties before finally reaching you. All that movement exposes your IP to unnecessary risk at every exchange.

Remote owns our own legal entities in every country where we offer global employment services. That means we never ask an intermediary to take possession of your IP. We are your global employment partner, and we provide our services directly to you.

We use an ironclad two-step IP transfer process.

As a global employment solutions provider, we offer a variety of services. Sometimes, we simply handle global payroll for your own local entities. Other times, we employ your workers on your behalf with our in-country entities, allowing you to hire all over the world without expensive overhead.

When we employ workers on your behalf, we use a two-stage approach to transfer the IP from the employee to you. First, we transfer the IP from the employee to Remote, in accordance with our country-specific employment agreements. Then, we transfer the IP to you. As international experts in IP and invention rights laws, we guarantee the maximum transfer of IP to you, every time. The IP belongs to you from the beginning, and we guarantee you receive it legally and easily thanks to our best-in-class service.

We deliver you the maximum protections under every country’s local laws.

You don’t have to be an expert in international IP law to hire internationally. We take care of everything to provide you with the highest level of protection in every country where you have employees. Remote’s in-country teams of legal experts craft employee agreements that comply with all applicable local laws, allowing you to rest easy.

What happens if your employees move to a new country? Don’t worry: we take care of that, too. Because we own our own legal entities, we have an international network of legal expertise ready to help from start to finish. The power of a global infrastructure with the precision of a local legal team — that’s the Remote difference.

Protect your IP and your global team with Remote

Remote’s global employment solutions include payroll, benefits, taxes, and compliance to empower companies of all sizes to employ top talent all over the world. We protect your IP and invention rights better than anyone else, in addition to providing your company and your employees with a first-class experience all over the world. Contact us today to learn how Remote can help you grow your global team securely.

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