Last Friday, in an important court case impacting business law in North Carolina, the N.C. Supreme Court issued a decision which protects ownership rights for North Carolina employers over new intellectual property (IP) developed at their companies. The decision in the case of Robert Paul Morris v Scenera Research, LLC and Ryan C. Fry overturned a previous Court of Appeals decision that threatened fair treatment of business owners in “hired-to-invent” lawsuits.
At issue in this case was whether employers or employees should be granted ownership rights over new inventions created during normal business operations. The North Carolina Chamber, along with the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) and North Carolina State University, had previously issued an amicus brief in this case to argue that allowing the lower courts’ decision to stand would set a bad precedent for the fair treatment of business owners involved in intellectual property cases, causing substantial harm to North Carolina’s competitive business climate.
Without a firm and stable foundation in law for the ownership of intellectual property, talented researchers and businesses would choose not to bring their innovative endeavors to North Carolina. Friday’s decision was not just a significant victory for current North Carolina businesses; it also sent a strong message to companies who might be looking to expand here that they can expect a high degree of fairness and predictability from North Carolina’s legal climate.
In addition to its direct benefits on the business climate, this recent decision serves as a reminder of the importance of fostering judicial leadership that exercises balanced, liability-restraining judgment on our state’s highest court. The North Carolina Chamber commends the Supreme Court justices who acted with decisiveness to protect fair property rights for North Carolina’s job creators.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber