Is your company planning to lay off employees in response to a tougher economic
environment? Do you have a process for preventing valuable intellectual assets
from walking out the door along with your exiting employees?
Most companies planning to downsize their workforce as a short-term fix to
reduce costs face very high risk of severe damage to long-term competitiveness
and prosperity through the loss of valuable intellectual assets.
Fortunately, HR can collaborate with your Intellectual Asset Management (IAM)
and Intellectual Property (IP) teams to mitigate this risk substantially. We
have developed a ten-step program that is conducted before, during,
and after downsizing:
Audit existing HR practices for managing intellectual assets and IP: Identify
weaknesses that can be fixed prior to a planned downsizing event.
Identify top quality inventors and potential "sand bag" inventors:
Help ensure you do not cut the wrong positions.
Secure and Monitor Confidential Documents: Consider freezing access to the most critical company documents, and establish a process to monitor downloads by employees leading up to a downsizing event. Monitored activity should then be reviewed with employees at exit interviews.
Accelerate documentation of in-process inventions: Identify and accelerate
completion of any in-process invention disclosures, provisionals, or patent
applications that are not yet fully documented.
Develop an intellectual asset dossier of each employee for HR management:
Document the output from the above steps for each employee to be included
in downsizing. Provide the dossiers to HR management for use in exit interviews.
Review intellectual asset dossiers with employees in exit interviews: Remind
exiting employees of the contractual ownership of all intellectual assets
and trade secrets related to your business that they have developed during
their employment, including those contained in the dossiers.
Analyze and organize employee IP-related records: Review inventor lab notebooks
and other files related to research, development, and invention developed
by exited employees. Add any additional intellectual assets captured to the
intellectual asset dossiers created in previous steps.
Track key inventor movements and IP development post-exit: Install a simple
patent monitoring system to view new patent filings on which your exited employees
are named inventors. Determine any potential overlaps with work completed
under employment at your company.
Develop inventor-specific IP strategies where necessary: Some special-case
exited employees such as prolific inventors, known industry experts, and respected
thought leaders may warrant a specific IP strategy unto themselves.
To obtain more information or discuss your unique challenges, please contact