Knowledge workers, and these days that is most of us, create value for their employers by leveraging their knowledge, but defining the ownership of that knowledge, and the flow of benefits from that knowledge, is a huge challenge, and becoming larger.

The recent court case between Mattell, owner of the Barbie doll franchise, and MGA Entertainment, owner of the Bratz doll range offers a salient example of the problems.

The designer of parts of the Barbie accessory range, after leaving Mattel went on to design the Bratz range for MCA, and the court held that Mattel was owed for the IP he had developed whilst working for them, but applied to the benefit of a later employer.

This scenario is a minefield for many businesses, and has far reaching implications on the way the employees and contractors are managed, and the ownership of ideas they have retained, or that evolve, even after they may have left employment.  Simple no-compete contracts, which are the norm currently are a long way short of the mark in a knowledge economy.

In a knowledge based sector, retaining, motivating, engaging, and understanding key employees should take more time energy than just about anything else. Don’t leave it to the lady in personnel!.