I’ve been asked this question a bunch of times from various startups so I’m glad you asked it. As other have pointed out, it’s very common for a startups to ask consultants to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Unfortunately, I’ve seen some startups get burned from ONLY having an NDA. An NDA is great for keeping your company’s intellectual property (IP) secure, but you can do even more to protect your IP. To step it up a notch, I would suggest utilizing an Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement. This type of contract obligates outside consultants to assign all business-related IP to the company. Consultants can and often will claim ownership to IP without this type of agreement.
The nice thing about an IP Assignment Agreement is that you can also include a provision that covers non-disclosure of information. As such, you can have an agreement that not only protects the company’s information and trade secrets, but also the stuff that was created by the consultants. After all, it would be annoying to pay these people for great ideas and material and then have no ownership to them when all is said and done.
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