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Virtual assistants are an increasingly popular way for businesses to access remote support. As a virtual assistant, all of your work is online. While there are benefits to working online, there are also risks. This article will set out how virtual assistants should categorise their intellectual property (IP) and subsequently register or label it. It will also explain how licence agreements work.

Categorise Your Intellectual Property

Virtual assistants can work in many different areas, from bookkeeping to human resources, and so may encounter different types of IP in their work. These could be:

Understanding which category of intellectual property your work falls under will mean that you can use the correct intellectual property tools. It will also mean that you are able to register or label your work if necessary. If you have established that your work is intellectual property and you appropriately register or label it, you will have exclusive rights over that work. You will have the power to determine whether any others can use or profit from your intellectual property. You will also have the power to sell it if you wish and enforce your rights on others in a legal context.

Patent 

A patent grants protections over new and novel inventions. You may create a new business method or process during your work for a client that you think could be an invention and therefore needs a patent. A patent has no specific label but can be registered with the Intellectual Property Office New Zealand (IPONZ). For successful registration, a patent must: 

  • be useful;
  • have an inventive step; and
  • be novel. 

IPONZ provides you with patent protection for 20 years before you must renew your registration.

Trade Mark

Trade marks protect branding and anything that you may create to identify your business. 

For example, this could be your logo or letterhead. 

If you have not registered a trade mark but you have been in your market for a lengthy period of time and you have a distinct reputation, you may have protection through an unregistered trade mark. You can label your unregistered trade mark with the ™ symbol. Alternatively, you may wish to register your trade mark. This can also be done through IPONZ. The application process is fairly simple and requires the trade mark material to be original and unique. You can label your registered trade mark with the ® symbol. 

Copyright

Copyright protects created artistic works. For example, this includes songs, books or scripts. As copyright covers quite a wide range of artistic works, you may encounter it during the course of your work as a virtual assistant. You cannot register copyright. Instead, New Zealand copyright law automatically protects your rights as soon as you create the work. You can label your works with the © symbol to demonstrate your rights.

Licence Agreements

As multiple different companies may work with virtual assistants at any given time, it is best to always be clear about how your clients can use your IP. This is important if the intellectual property belongs to you or your temporary employer. A licence agreement is a tool you can use to clarify the boundaries of any intellectual property you may use during the course of your work. This is a way for the owner of any intellectual property to give permission to others to use it without there being any impact on their ownership rights. A licence agreement can be tailored to suit any situation. This means that you can vary the terms to specify:

  • how long the intellectual property can be used; 
  • where the intellectual property can be used; and 
  • what aspects of the intellectual property can be used.

It is also common to set out the type of use that will occur over the period of the licence agreement. These can be:

  • exclusive use, meaning the owner of the intellectual property will not use it over the period of the licence agreement; 
  • non-exclusive use, meaning both the owner and another party can use the intellectual property simultaneously; or
  • sole use, meaning only one licence agreement will be granted at a time.

Key Takeaways 

If you are working as a virtual assistant, be sure to categorise and protect your intellectual property. You can do this by registering or labelling your work. You may also have to enter into a licence agreement so that you can use intellectual property that you do not own. This is a good way to set boundaries around intellectual property use. If you need assistance with your intellectual property, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I label my trade mark?

Registered trade marks can be labelled with the ® symbol and unregistered trade marks can be labelled with the ™ symbol. 

Can you be paid for licencing your intellectual property to others?

Yes. Usually, intellectual property use is exchanged for payment. Other exchanges could be exposure or improvement of the intellectual property.

How do I label my trade mark?

You can label registered trade marks with the ® symbol and you can label unregistered trade marks with the ™ symbol. 

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