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When you are working as a consultant, you create intellectual property for yourself and for other people. However, it can be tricky to understand intellectual property. Having a clear understanding of intellectual property is critical for consultants, to build a strong business and help clients. Therefore, this article will provide you with a useful guide about the types of intellectual property you might encounter in your work as a consultant. It will also explain who owns the intellectual property you create for your clients.

What Are the Different Types of Intellectual Property?

It can be helpful to understand the different types of intellectual property you may encounter when you are working as a consultant. This will mean you are able to correctly navigate mechanisms like licence agreements, assignments and intellectual property clauses. Once registered or otherwise created, all intellectual property ownership gives you legal rights. This includes the right to determine who uses your intellectual property, and legal protection. There are many types of intellectual property, but you will most commonly encounter:

  • trade marks;
  • copyright; and
  • patents.

Trade marks

A trade mark protects anything you may create that identifies your brand as yours. This will likely look like your business logo, or any other branding you create for clients.

Copyright

Copyright covers artistic works, such as anything you write for a client. It does not require  registration and is applied automatically to the work you produce. 

Patents

A patent recognises and protects inventions. An invention must be original, novel and useful to be accepted by IPONZ. 

Who Owns My Intellectual Property?

As a consultant, you will create intellectual property for both your brand and for that of your clients. If you create intellectual property for your own brand, you will own it.  

However, if you have created intellectual property for a client, it may be harder to tell who owns it. The general rule is that creators own intellectual property unless they do so in the course of their employment. If a client commissions you to create intellectual property for them, they will generally own it.

It is important to clarify these issues before undertaking any work. For example, when  working with a new client, ensure your employment agreement addresses any questions of ownership. This way, you will both be clear on any ownership questions.

You can include this in an intellectual property clause. This clause should touch on the intellectual property you create, who owns it and how it should be maintained after your employment ends. There are options for ownership. For example, this could be:

  • ownership by you;
  • ownership by your client; or 
  • joint ownership.

Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand

Our free Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand guide explains how to register and defend your trade mark registration.

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Licence Agreements

You may also want to use licence agreements for any intellectual property that you intend on owning, but want to allow clients to use. A licence agreement allows the owner of intellectual property to give permission to others to use their intellectual property. Since the agreement can be varied on both parties’ individual terms, you can decide where, when and how the intellectual property is utilised. You will maintain ownership of the intellectual property, but there are several different terms you can include to clarify who can use the intellectual property. For example, you may have:

  • exclusive use, meaning you grant only one licence and you cannot use the intellectual property yourself;
  • non-exclusive use, meaning you can use the intellectual property and grant multiple licences; or
  • sole use, meaning that you can only grant one licence, but can use the intellectual property yourself as well.

Assignment Agreements

In contrast, assignment is a full transfer of intellectual property ownership. After an assignment, you will no longer own the intellectual property. Therefore, you may use this if you have created intellectual property for a client, and you want them to have full ownership.

A successful assignment needs to be signed and dated by both parties to the agreement, and also requires witnesses. Often, assignments can occur automatically in an employment agreement between you and your client. You may state that all intellectual property is assigned to the client in your intellectual property clause.

Key Takeaways

As a consultant, you will be interacting with and creating intellectual property regularly. However, if you do not understand intellectual property issues, you could be at risk of legal penalties such as trade mark infringement. Understanding intellectual property ownership will help you benefit from the intellectual property you create while respecting the boundaries of intellectual property protection. Therefore, if you have any questions about who owns the intellectual property you create, LegalVision’s experienced intellectual property lawyers can help. Call us on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to register your intellectual property with IPONZ?

Each type of intellectual property will have a different cost. Trade marks, for example, typically cost $100 plus GST (per class) to register. Patents, on the other hand, cost $250 plus GST to register in official fees.

Can you be paid for assigning your intellectual property?

Assignment is a sale of your intellectual property. Since intellectual property is a valuable asset, you will want to charge a fee for assignment. This should be determined with the other party to the assignment. 

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