How To Protect Your IP Rights While Interviewing
The job-interviewing process is as stressful as it is exciting, especially for the prospective employee in today’s highly competitive market. The stakes are high for the employer, too: The recruitment process is an expensive and time-consuming one, although even this pales in comparison to the cost, time, and effort involved in training an employee, helping them settle in, and eventually retaining them.
So naturally, all parties involved want this process to go as smoothly and painlessly as possible. We have dealt with the intricacies of the hiring process here previously, while today we are going to take a closer look at how to protect your intellectual property during the interview and testing phase (both as a candidate or employer).
The delicate matter of IP during the interview
Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols, names, and images used in commerce (source). (For a beginner’s guide, take a peek into why it’s so important to protect your IP here.)
That’s all well and good, you may be thinking; but why should I worry about that when I’m applying for a job? Isn’t there a vast plethora of more important things to worry about?
Granted, both the applicant and the employer have their plates full to the brim. In the process of recruitment, both parties are participating in an exchange of opinions and experiences, and sometimes that is a line that’s hard to balance on – especially when it comes to intellectual property. How much to disclose, and what to keep to oneself? As we’re about to explain, intellectual property theft in job interviews happens more often than you would think – and sometimes it’s not even intentional. Just think about it: A lot of recruitment steps now require some problem-solving, performance-orientated tasks, particularly for a technical or managerial position. This can, for example, include writing the sample of a part of a software or app code. Or imagine a copywriter applying for a job at an ad agency, asked to come up with a tagline for one of company’s clients on the spot. If the candidate doesn’t get the job in the end, how can he or she be sure the company will not use that code or tagline at some point in the future, and make it their own?
Weighing the risks
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this – but understanding the risks is key. What you can do is either 1) protect your invention or solution with a copyright, or 2) simply say no to the request. Alternatively, you can remind the company that, while you’re eager to prove your skills and competences as the top candidate that you are, the task put before you is very time-consuming and demanding; and suggest to do a sample of the same task, just on a smaller scale, which will reflect your ability and knowledge just as well. If you’re worried about your idea getting stolen, you can ask the potential employer to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but chances are you are going to get a raised eyebrow (at the very least).
“Every applicant must decide if the potential reward of earning a new job is worth the potential risk of submitting ideas to a third party that cannot be protected”, concludes Andrew Armstrong for IP Watchdog.
What about employers?
There are several steps companies can and do take in order to protect their intellectual property in the employment stage, and these are:
- Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), in which the employee agrees that they will not disclose sensitive information about the company.
- Ownership of Intellectual Property Agreement, in which the employee agrees the ideas they developed during their employment belong to the company, and not them personally.
- Non-Compete Agreement, in which the employee agrees not to work for a competitor in a similar position for a certain period of time.
- Non-Solicitation Agreement, in which the employee agrees not to solicit the company’s clients or customers for their own or another company, once their contract with the company ends.
The matter of IP protection during the hiring process is a touchy one, a balancing act for both sides involved. Should you feel like your intellectual ownership has been abused when you were applying for a job or looking to hire someone, get in touch! We have pre-vetted and hand-picked the best lawyers in the country who will help you out – start out by filling this simple online form.