Who owns the Copyrights on a product?

The Company where the engineers are employed for product development OR the Company employing them OR the product development team ?

This is an oft arising question in the software industry and of great relevance in fighting a corporate battle for claiming Copyright /IP and patent control of a product developed by the employees of a company. Logically speaking, the employees work under the overall product development framework of a company, and the development / coding structure is a joint effort of the whole team. The product overall functionality is defined by the Company and details multiple aspects :

  • The target market
  • The input and output parameters
  • The Call flow and the functionality within the product
  • The marketing pitch
  • And more….

But it’s the individual employee or the team effort that goes into the development and its their skill set deployed here. It’s a bit of a grey area and has been debated in court many a time. Its experienced in filing of patents globally and the right way ahead is to get a patent assignment deed signed by the patent filing individual / team for the same in favour of the Company in perpetuity and without any claims in the past, present and future on the same.

Extending the same logic to the product development team and the individuals threin, it would be best to structure the following plans in the employee contracts in an organization :

  • A Disclaimer from the employees clearly stating that all development work / concepts / and ideas executed in the due course of their employment with the organization are the rightful property of the Organisation and that the employee has no legal right over the same even after the termination of his contract with the Company.
  • A No- Compete/ Non Disclosure Agreement : in case of highly confidential and tasks involving a high degree of IP creation, its most important to get this agreement in place. A lot of knowledge is shared between employees in an organization in the due course of product ideation / development and this is valuable knowledge for competition. Employee ethics warrant a Non Disclosure of virgin knowledge developed within an organization with any outside and its good to strictly implement this in an organization.
  • Ethical Code of Conduct Agreement : Inclusions in this could be :
    1. Use of Company assets and information
    2. Non Disclosure
    3. Accountability and Zero tolerance

Implementing the above basics in an organization, add to the security layer in ensuring adequate protection and safeguards in any legal framework and action if needed at any time against violations in Copyright / IP ownership on products owned / developed by an organization.