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This episode: Legal
You need to consult with legal on two fronts.
One, you have to ensure that whoever will join the program has properly agreed to give up their rights to any intellectual property that they generate for the program. Most employees have already done this, (it’s typically handled by HR during the onboarding process) but in some cases, if might be iffy when it comes to contractors. While typically all contractors also sign terms when they come on that all of their work is work for hire and that the work product, including any ideas that they come up with when they are engaged with the company, automatically become the company’s property, in some cases, your legal department may wish to restrict participation in the program to only full-time employees. Even though some of your contractors may have great ideas, there is likely too much of a legal risk to allow them into the program. Every time I have come across this issue, contractors have not been allowed to participate. Can’t argue with the lawyers on this one, they know way more than me on this topic.
Two, if you are very lucky, some of the ideas which your people will generate will be so amazingly cool that they will be patentable. If that is the case, your legal team will determine the patentability of the idea (although I do go into some detail on what is and isn’t patentable later in this book) and if it is patentable, they may file a patent for the idea.
I suggest that even if you are not looking for patentable ideas, you will get some – ideas that are so cool and far out and probably not buildable today, but at some future time and with some future system. These ideas may be something that your company may do in future, or something one of your competitors may do.
Depending on your company, your legal department may totally understand this, and have legal personnel ready to take any of these possibly patentable ideas and process them for patentability. On the other hand, your legal team may know nothing about patents and patentability and completely rely on Outside Counsel (or OC) for the review and processing of ideas. Either way, you need to prepare your legal department for the possible acceptance of patentable ideas.