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Intellectual property question

  1. Aug 30, 2015 #1
    Suppose I work for a company and build an application for internal use, according to specifications I've been given by the company. Because I'm proud of how I implemented it, and because I believe it would be useful for many people to have, I build a generalized version of it during my free time and put the deployable project on GitHub. Is this allowed?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    You really need to ask your employer.
  4. Aug 30, 2015 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    To echo what V50 said, your employer may have intellectual property rights or ownership of that. You really need to check with them since you very well could be disseminating confidential information, trade secrets, or violating statutory intellectual property policy. Under many employment contracts the fact that you implemented it on your free time may not limit their rights to it.
  5. Aug 30, 2015 #4


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    Throughout most of the world.... if your company is large enough to have a standard employee agreement, this will be covered by that agreement, which you probably signed before you collected your first paycheck. Unless the lawyer who drafted that agreement was a total incompetent, the company and not you controls the IP rights. Even if there is not such an agreement in place, local IP law will govern this situation, and it will generally say that if you do this and your employer isn't OK with it, you will be out a job and in for a world of expensive legal hurt, possible criminal charges, and trouble finding other jobs in the industry.

    However, you are asking the wrong question. The right question is "will my employer be OK with this?" and the way to find out is to ask. Depending on the corporate culture, how valuable you are, and above all else whether releasing the code risks helping competitors or damaging the company's future business prospects, they might allow this. If they won't - don't do it.
  6. Aug 31, 2015 #5
    Echoing what everyone has said here: Some employers may even want to own the work you do on your "own time" because you're salaried. So theoretically, if you wrote a comic book for kids, they may have a claim to it.

    That said, any employer worth a damn, any employer that wants to retain employees for the longer run will make exceptions for this sort of thing.

    You can also negotiate agreements ahead of time. I know one guy who did just that. He is an expert in his field; he had already authored several books, and he wanted to continue doing so. He negotiated an agreement that what he did on "his own time" was his. The company attorneys agreed to this, and today he continues to publish on the very same subject as he is employed for.

    That said, he is also legally bound to say nothing about his employer's work in his books.

    So things can be negotiated, but you need to do this up front.
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