The last traditional method of intellectual property management is through trade secrets. Unlike the other methods, ideas are protect through non-disclosure ensuring no-one else knows about them. 

This method requires very severe in house procedures to keep the risk of information becoming public to a minimum. As such, it is an incredibly fragile and risky method of intellectual property protection since if the idea or method does become public knowledge then the company will no longer have the monopoly upon it. It also doesn’t prevent other companies from creating products very similar to the company’s, whereas a patent would.

It does help protect against a formula; practice; process; pattern; or compilation of information that would normally not be able to be protected under normal intellectual property laws. A good example of where effective use of trade secrets has been applied is with Irn Bru’s “secret formula” which has been passed down by generation so that only two people in the world know the recipe, hence keeping the trade secret since 1901. There is also a risk however that if something was to happen to the secret holders that the information could be lost, so much so that Irn Bru’s holders never travel on the same plane.

It is unlikely thought that Caru Design would be required to have its own trade secrets, although may be expected to keep clients.

As a small workforce is employed via Caru Design there are potential issues that could arise due to intellectual property should a thorough Intellectual Property Agreement not be implemented. With an encompassing employee agreement should any problems arise infringement proceedings could be started. With regards to this most agreements incorporate a non-disclosure agreement, preventing employees from talking about current projects outside of work. Even non-design employees, such as secretaries or catering staff will be subject to these agreements as potentially they could leak trade secrets that could damage intellectual property rights of the company.

Caru Design’s employees would have to sign confidentiality agreements as part of the employee contract; however it would also be prudent for Caru Design to use Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreements when dealing with outside sources. It has become common practice for companies dealing with multiple clients to enforce these contracts when clients enter the studio, protecting other companies’ secrets. These contracts, due to the legal nature of them are enforceable with lawsuits should a party break them.

The main issue with employee and intellectual problems are ownership of design rights on any products they have been associated with, and if no prior agreement is signed the design could be claimed to be theirs. This could create big intellectual property issues if the employee was to take “their” designs to another company that could be used to the benefit of future employers.

The agreement would therefore make this impossibility by assigning all intellectual property to Caru Design. The agreement would cover the sharing of work produced during the time they were employed, this protects against any work done outside of the company that could potentially infringe upon the studios own work. The sharing of details would be restricted on the current completion level of the design, where only finished designs are disclosed with permission of client.

It should be noted however with regards to moral rights, whilst the design and all rights would officially and legally belong to Caru Design, it is the right of the creators to be “identified as the author of the work” (ipo.gov.uk). As such a clause would have to be written into the agreement that would allow the employee to use the design in their personal portfolio after a certain period had passed as to protect the original design rights.


In the next discussion we shall take a look at Creative Commons!

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