Disrupt without dispute

Posted on 12 September 2019. Source: TALiNT International

Disrupt without dispute

This article originally appeared in TALiNT International.

Innovation drives opportunity and advantage, but it can also create new risks. We asked four legal experts to highlight some key innovation-related issues you should be aware of.

It's great to have a culture of innovation where everyone is looking to solve problems and create new revenue opportunities, but there is more to consider than the potential benefits. An important question to ask is: what are the legal implications of this solution? As Resource Solutions shared in a recent TI interview, when considering any potential innovation, the first thing the company does before starting any trials is run it past the legal team. This should be the starting point for all organisations.

"Innovation has long been at the heart of any forward-thinking, progressive business, and the speed of technological advancement we are witnessing means that it has never been more important for employers to consider,” explains Tom Grogan, co-lead blockchain group at Mishcon de Reya LLP. “One of the common mistakes we have seen is a ‘build now, comply later’ approach, particularly in respect of digital platform and application projects.

"Great ideas do not exist in a legal or regulatory vacuum and our experience tells us that significant time and cost savings are realised by engaging expert advisers from the outset to ensure ideas, prototypes and builds are ‘compliant by design’."

Data day risk

So what should you be considering? One new risk to consider is around GDPR, as Rebecca Young and Emma James, senior associates at JMW Solicitors, point out. “When considering a collaboration with a third party, or introducing a new product into your business, it is important to think about the implications on your data processing and any increased obligations under the GDPR”, they explain.

“For example, does your privacy policy need to be updated to accommodate this? The GDPR has focused attention on the rights of individuals to access information about them and to enforce their rights. Get it wrong, and this could lead to a significant fine, civil claims and reputational damage.”
They add that "companies need to have contractual documentation in place to address intellectual property rights and use non-disclosure agreements to maintain confidentiality."

Impact on Staff

It may sound like a great idea, but it needs to be well-executed to deliver most benefit - and your people are your make or break factor.

“Innovation gives rise to issues around training needs, and there are possible discrimination issues around age / disability / flexible working depending on what the innovation is," says Chris Thompson, partner at Gateley plc. “Before investing in an innovation, consider who may be affected and how this can be approached. Take time to consider the employee population, and how the innovation will affect different groups. It may be an idea to trial the innovation in one part of the business to prove concept and build a 'fan base' to help with the sell into the wider business."
Thompson concludes by warning that, if innovation leads to reduced headcount or significant changes to working arrangements, there may also be issues around restructuring and redundancy to consider.

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