Does your Company have Protection of IP Developed by Employees?

Does your Company have Protection of IP Developed by Employees?

Does your Company have Protection of IP Developed by Employees?

Article by John Botha

In the rapidly evolving world of business, intellectual property (IP) has become a significant asset. It’s the lifeblood of innovation, giving companies a competitive edge in the market. But what happens when this IP is developed by an employee? Who owns it? And more importantly, does your company have clear policies in place to ensure that any IP developed by employees is owned by the company?

The Importance of Clear Policies

The first step towards protecting your company’s IP rights is to have detailed and clear policies in place. These policies should explicitly state that any IP developed by employees arising out of the employment relationship is owned by the company. This ensures that the employee(s) do not have any legal claim to financial and other benefits arising therefrom.

Without such policies, companies may find themselves in legal disputes with employees over the ownership of IP. This can be costly, time-consuming, and damaging to the company’s reputation.

A Case Study: Vodacom’s “Please Call Me” Invention

A recent case that has received a lot of attention in South Africa is the Vodacom “Please Call Me” invention. This service, which allows customers without airtime to send a free message to another user asking them to call back, was invented by an employee of Vodacom.

The invention has been the subject of litigation over several years. The employee who designed the solution claimed that he was entitled to compensation, given the principle of ostensible authority. This principle states that a person is held to be liable if they give the impression that the actions of an agent are authorized, even if they are not.

The case has raised important questions about the protection of IP developed by employees and the need for clear policies.


The Vodacom case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of having clear and detailed policies in place regarding the ownership of IP developed by employees. Companies must ensure that they have these policies in place to protect their interests and avoid costly legal disputes.

Remember, in the world of business, it’s not just about having great ideas – it’s about protecting them too.

 If you need an Intellectual Property Policy for your organisation, you can get one here: Intellectual Property Policy (

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