The protection of intellectual property, proprietary information, and trade secrets is a top priority for every business owner. Though many business owners take steps to ensure that their information is secure and that non-compete agreements are in place for employees, they all too frequently neglect the possibility of a partnership breakup occurring. As is always the case, the best way to address a problem is before it occurs, but if you have not taken proactive steps there are still effective methods of protecting intellectual property during a partnership breakup.
Smart business owners establish rules surrounding trade secrets and intellectual property ownership long before a partnership breakup occurs. This is a crucial step because these intangible assets are critical to what makes a business unique and gives it a competitive edge. Intellectual property may be a business’s most critical asset, and by placing restrictions on both employees and business partners through non-compete agreements you can stop unauthorized use. A carefully crafted partnership agreement will address all issues regarding ownership rights, how assets are to be divided, and other specifics of how proprietary information will be treated. Unfortunately, partnership breakups can be hard to anticipate, and often aren’t.
Not every partnership breakup is an occasion for animosity, and there are many circumstances under which there are no conflicts over who owns designs, processes, and trade secrets or who contributed more to an original idea. But if you and your partner(s) are engaged in a contentious partnership breakup and your original agreements have not established enforceable rules, you may need to turn to either litigation or mediation, as intellectual property is an asset just like any other type of physical property, and it is important to establish its value and determine who it will remain with. The options available for addressing a dispute over intellectual property — including trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and patents — may include:
- Corporate restructuring
- Temporary restraining orders or injunctions
- Negotiations to divide assets and intellectual property
When a partnership breakup occurs, it is easy to get carried into a seemingly endless cycle of argument, and while some issues may be minor, ownership of intellectual property is a very big deal. If you find yourself unable to resolve this type of dispute, our experienced attorneys can help. Contact us today to learn about our dispute resolution, mediation, and litigation services.