Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) include (but are not limited to) the rights that arise from the protection of different forms of IP like a patent, trademark, copyright, to name a few. Generally, business firms and organizations either create their Intellectual Property (IP) assets and get the same registered to obtain the corresponding IP Rights or license specific IP Rights from some third-party for their use. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – when most of the employees are working remotely and probably unsupervised, priorities are changing almost every other day, information is flowing freely, and budgets are tightening – companies and organizations need to stay diligent when it comes to protecting their IP portfolios. They must be more vigilant in all their IP practices to avoid and eliminate the loss of IP Rights. Additionally, they need to make sure that their licensees are also protecting their licensed IP Rights well.
It is a matter of fact that yes – once the companies and organizations resume operating from their workplaces, they wouldn’t want to know that they no longer have protections on some of their IP assets. Even worse in this scenario would be such companies losing upon the IP Rights they had licensed from a third-party, which, in turn, wouldn’t enable them to use those IP rights in their everyday business operations. Hence, without any second thoughts, the loss of IP Rights can have a massive impact on business companies and organizations.
Where and how the loss of IP Rights can arise at present?
- In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the employees are getting the work done remotely by using the tools at their disposal. They may not pay due attention to maintaining the IP agreement obligations as some procedures and protocols are usually in place when people work from their office setting.
- Without focusing on the crucial IP terms, fast-tracking new licensing, development, manufacturing, supply, distribution, and several other IP agreements, to meet the needs of the ongoing pandemic, can prove to be problematic.
- Loss of trade secret protection can arise if suitable security measures are not put in place to maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of information, specifically when the employees are working remotely.
- Failing to enforce Intellectual Property Infringement matters (due to limited capabilities and resources) that come during this pandemic to a company’s attention is yet another issue in this aspect.
- The bankruptcy of either the licensor or licensee is probably the worst possible case in this scenario.
What measures can you take today to minimize the risk of such loss?
- Supervisors and employees should remain in touch with their legal department at all times to seek the required protection for new ideas and inventions.
- It is imperative to monitor IP infringement issues and related matters and subsequently come up with appropriate mechanisms to make sure that the enforcement rights are not lost upon at present.
- When it comes to the IP agreements that need to be signed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, business owners must consider minimizing the corresponding IP issues by licensing the IP Rights on a short-term basis. Also, they must look forward to renegotiating the terms at a later stage.
- IP holders and business owners must review all the IP agreements, including licenses, joint ownership, joint development, and research agreements, at the earliest possible stage itself for maintaining obligations and keeping the agreements in force. Furthermore, they must review the bankruptcy obligations in the agreements and prepare well for the IP issues that may arise during the pandemic or after some time.
- It is essential to ensure that royalty or minimum payments are continuing to be made in the ongoing lockdown period as well. If required, owners can also consider alternate payment arrangements to avoid the loss of licensed-in IP Rights.