Intellectual Property Rights

By ETFairfax ·

I joined a company to help develop software that done "stuff". The companies software is not the 1st of it's type; there are other applications available that do similar things, so its concept is not patented in any way.

Anyway, under the hood there software was rubbish! So, in my own time, and on my own equipment, and under no instruction from my employees, I started to develop a system that in the end would offer similar functionality to that of their rubbish system.

My software was built from the ground up, and nothing was taken from the rubbish system. My software is incomplete and was purely developed to prove a point about good system architecture.

I have decided to leave the company, and they are now saying that my software is theirs.

Where do I stand?



This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Answers

Collapse -


by cmiller5400 In reply to Intellectual Property Rig ...

If it was built on their computers, and on their time, then yes it probably is theirs. Read your employment contract / handbook etc.

Collapse -

I didn't

by ETFairfax In reply to If...

Hi Cmiller5400,

Thanks for the reply. As mentioned in the original post, I did the work on MY time, and MY computer.

Collapse -

I missed that. Sorry...

by cmiller5400 In reply to I didn't

Then in that case, yes, you should own the rights on the code. I'd consult with a Lawyer on that just to be sure. They may try to sue you for copyright infringement, theft of intellectual property or some other legal loophole that their lawyers dream up; all because you had access to their system. Best bet, speak with a lawyer if you really want to pursue this.

Best of luck!!

Collapse -

As long os you don't have a contract stipulating

by LarryD4 In reply to Intellectual Property Rig ...

If it was done on your time and on your equipment, in other words at home. Then they have no right to the software. But then how do they know you did the development?

Collapse -

A big IF

by JamesRL In reply to As long os you don't have ...

If the posters knowledge of the process was gained on the job, and if the wording in the letter of offer/employment terms and conditions/contract so stipulates, the employer may have the right to make sure you don't gain from the knowledge from the job, despite the fact you did the work from home.

This is a job for a lawyer.

My wife worked in IP law for years, its often not cut and dried.


Collapse -

You are Absolutely wrong sir

by drowningnotwaving In reply to As long os you don't have ...

Patent and Copyright law, and in many cases backed up by legislation (eg Australia, New Zealand and others) is very clear.

Any development that you do, of any kind, that is related to the core business of the company that employs you, is theirs.

There are literally hundreds of UK Law cases that back this up.

I am also certain that there are a few, that under specific cricumstance, find in favour of the employee.

Those cases are rare and usually the circumstances of the case are so esoteric that it has little relevance in terms of the broader community.

"Your Equipment", "Your Home" and "Your Time" have zero to do with the law in this case, sorry.

The ethics or morality, from both sides, can be argued 'til the sun turns blue but they are of no use.

edit got rid of SCREAMing

Collapse -

Law supports the Employer until proven otherwise

by drowningnotwaving In reply to Intellectual Property Rig ...

The ownership of intellectual property of any kind, if it relates to the business of the company, will initially default in favour the company.

There may be extreme, extenuating circumstances but these are usually around the "definition of the core business" of the company.

In the UK it is quite specific:

At present, if an employee in the UK invents something in the course of his employment, the employer owns the rights to any patent that follows.

Courts have found that "your resources (in this case a computer), your home and your time" is, sorry to say, irrelevant. You can do your own research to see the case law that backs this up, but I can assure you it exists.

I think if you do the right research you'll find parallel rulings in the case of copyright law, which is the dominant law surrounding computer software.

Hint: Don't ask computer people, ask copyright lawyers. It's not a moral or ethical question, remember: "the law is blind" (heh heh heh :) ).

If you think you can make millions out of your software then Good Luck! Fund a long-term legal battle, take them on, and go for it. You'll find that even small companies tend to get a lot of financial support for such cases through business groups and larger companies, as it is in their interest that the balance of the law remains as is.

Go for it ! :)

edit got rid of the SCREAMing

Related Discussions

Related Forums