Intellectual property ideas
A top Yorkshire lawyer is urging the regions businesses to use National Ideas Week, running from March 12 - 16, to ignite employee creativity and fan the flames of innovation to get ahead of competitors.
Jason Dainty, an intellectual property solicitor at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, based at its offices in Queen Street, Leeds, believes employees in Yorkshire are failing to come forward with ideas as they think their employer will leave them empty handed. The net effect of this is that innovation is stifled.
He said: The government has long been aware of this problem and as part of the Patents Act 2004, lowered the threshold for which employees could claim compensation from their employers for ideas their company obtained patents for.
Whilst well intentioned, this has done nothing to encourage staff to come forward, as in practice no compensation has been awarded since it came into effect three years ago, perhaps due to a lack of awareness of the provisions. However, the general perception is the law still heavily favours the employer.
Mr Dainty said Yorkshire workers had a lot to offer bosses in terms of innovation.
Intellectual property advice
He said: Employees hold valuable positions at the heart of companies and are frequently closer to the businesses activities, making them a crucial source of ideas for new products, as well as different ways of doing business.
New business development is key to keeping companies at the forefront of markets, but many bosses in Yorkshire fail to recognise the important contribution their employees can make to this, instead often relying on the management team to perform this function.
Mr Dainty said the problem was compounded by a lack of recognition and reward schemes for staff.
Even where employees would receive some sort of recognition, many still do not open up to bosses, as they aren't aware of the rewards or don't believe their employer will be true to their promises.
Mr Dainty said the best way for businesses in Yorkshire to nurture employee innovation and reap the benefits was to be upfront with workers and introduce policy or benefit schemes, which provide compensation for inventions.
He said: These policies or schemes needn't provide for employee ownership, but rather a fair and equitable reward scheme.
The Patents Act gives workers a platform on which to seek financial remuneration, where businesses have obtained a patent and gained outstanding benefit from an employees invention.
However, this is an unwieldy piece of legislation which requires employees to take action against their employer.
It would be far better for bosses to create an open culture where innovation and recognition go hand in hand. Businesses in Yorkshire should make sure all employees are aware of new businesses development reward schemes and put these in writing to instil confidence in staff that they will deliver on their intentions.
Employees are a valuable weapon for companies operating in increasingly competitive markets and bosses need to recognise this if they are to get ahead.
Any businesses concerned about setting up an employee reward scheme to encourage staff to put forward inventions can contact Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100.