Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own time?

  1. Aug 16, 2011 #1
    This is a clause from one of the required learning courses at my new employer:

    I'm no lawyer, but this just seems wrong. I have a few ideas in my head - some inventions I would like to try - that pertain to improvements on modern wheelchairs. Totally unrelated. How in the world would my employer own the rights to this if I develop the idea further?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2011 #2

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    "to the extent permitted by law"

    If something should ever happen you can always challenge any claims in court. But it is pretty much standard practice for employers to claim ownership of anything an employee does while in their employ. I think this is done mainly as a default to limit challenges where ownership may not be clear.

    However, if you use any information or equipment - the physical or intellectual property of the employer - or time that was on their clock, they would probably have a legitimate claim of ownership.
     
  4. Aug 16, 2011 #3

    Ryan_m_b

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    Depends where you work. Many universities here in the UK have a clause in their contract that basically says anything you discover with your field is their IP. The only way you can retain it is if you can prove in a court of law that the product/discovery/IP was developed entirely independently from anything going on at the university. This can be a very tricky thing because the university can always argue that if it wasn't for them you wouldn't be in the field.

    I learnt all that from a lecture I had from an IP lawyer in undergrad. It made me feel a little sick by the end.
     
  5. Aug 16, 2011 #4

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    It's very common, I was under an intellectual poperty clause at my old company, and when I left, I was taken into a small room with two HR people and "debriefed" for a couple of hours, had to sign a bunch of papers. That was also when they realized they had never had me sign a "non-compete". My new company made sure I signed my life away (and I think they can get me in the afterlife too).

    If things you wish to work on at home, on your own time is completely unrelated to your current job or field, no information or ideas you got at work is used for your project, then it's probably ok. You could always talk to your manager, HR or company legal if there might be some question about it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
  6. Aug 16, 2011 #5
    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    Whether it's normal or not...that just makes me kind of sick. Frankly if it's not part of their business and doesn't affect them in any way...then it's none of their business!
     
  7. Aug 16, 2011 #6

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    A bit of an overreaction. It's just a piece of paper.

    The point is, whether it's part of their business and whether it affects them in any way is an iffy call. They are simply ensuring that, while in their employ, the judgment call of what might belong to them is not entirely yours to make in a vacuum.
     
  8. Aug 16, 2011 #7

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    IIRC my employment contract (in the UK) is not quite so draconian, but it does say that I have to inform my employers about any commerical activities outside of my work. That seems fair enough - it's basically a "no moonlighting without our permission" clause.
     
  9. Aug 17, 2011 #8
    Re: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own ti

    don't worry, the lawyers won't bother you for your thoughts unless you just happen to get rich off of one of them.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Can your employer own the rights to unrelated products you develop on your own time?
Loading...