The best physicians are constantly looking for ways to improve healthcare with new techniques and procedures. Many physicians find themselves doubling as inventors, creating products, treatments, or medicines to improve outcomes for their patients. Physicians who are employed by a hospital or medical practice may be surprised to find that their inventions, even those developed away from work, may legally be the property of their employer. This is because physician’s employment contracts often include language that allows the employer to claim ownership of their employees’ intellectual property (IP).
Read Contracts Carefully
When reviewing an employment contract, physicians should keep an eye out for the following language referencing intellectual property.
Reveal all previously developed intellectual property: If the contract requires you to reveal all inventions or ideas you have developed prior to employment or outside the scope of your employment, it may be connected to a requirement to give your employer full rights to that IP.
Claiming ownership of all intellectual property developed during employment: Some contracts require you to give your employer all rights to your ideas and inventions, even if they don’t have anything to do with medicine or were developed with your own resources on your own time.
Intellectual property within the employer’s area of interest: In some cases, the phrase “area of interest” may be used, meaning anything you develop that is within your employer’s area of interest will be their property. This can be especially dangerous in cases where you don’t know exactly what your employer is researching or developing.
Physicians should be especially wary of any agreement that includes this type of language since it can cause them to forfeit any benefits they get from their inventions and create legal problems down the line.
Protections for Physicians
There are some stipulations that can protect physicians’ rights to their own intellectual property. A contract is safer if it specifies that the employer only has claim to ideas or inventions developed with the employer’s:
- Proprietary information
Before signing a physician’s employment contract, it’s wise to have the contract reviewed by an healthcare contract attorney who will look out for your interests. Larry “Max” Maxwell Law Practice can help you through that process.