Business Innovation and the Law
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Business Innovation and the Law

Perspectives from Intellectual Property, Labour, Competition and Corporate Law

Edited by Marilyn Pittard, Ann L. Monotti and John Duns

Business Innovation and the Law analyses the topical issue of protecting and promoting business research and development. It does so by examining business innovation through the lens of different legal disciplines – intellectual property, labour and employment laws, competition and corporate laws.
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Chapter 19: Devices at law to protect employers: a conspectus of approaches

Marilyn Pittard


This chapter sets the stage for the discussion in this Part of the legal devices used by businesses and employers to protect themselves from internal attack, through the unauthorized misappropriation of data, information or innovations, and attempts by business to secure the complete loyalty of their workers to work only for and in the interests of the employer and business. Employers who have fostered innovation within their organization may perceive a threat that an employee will take an invention, or otherwise utilize the discovered knowledge and information, for the employee’s own benefit: for example, by setting up a company controlled by the employee and realizing the fruits of the invention by effectively competing against his or her former employer. Alternatively, the threat could come from the employee seeking employment with another employer and ‘divulging all’ – and thereby conferring on the new employer, which has not supported, or invested in, the development of the innovation or invention, the ability to ‘reap where they have not sewn’. The threat may not come from the inventor himself or herself, but from another source internal to the employer’s business – perhaps another employee or a contractor who has access to the confidential information, trade secret or relevant knowledge of the device or process. This threat may be particularly real where teams of workers have contributed to the innovation, so that knowledge is not centralized in one inventor but available to many. John Hull’s chapter identifies some case examples of divulging trade secrets and analyses these cases.

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