DoI own ideas and research thatI have put together off the clock?

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DoI own ideas and research thatI have put together off the clock?

I am presenting an idea for a new division for my company. I have countless presentations and financials that I have put together on my time. If my company decides it is not a route they want to go, do I still own the idea and research?

Asked on February 4, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

Kenneth Avila / Kenneth Avila, Patent Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First look at any agreements you signed with your company when you started.  Most employer / employee agreement have a clause saying that all intellectual property (IP) you create, regardless if you are on the clock or not, belongs to the employer.  If the IP you create outside of work is in a different field of work than what your company is in you may have an argument in court to say that the IP belongs to you.  However from your facts it seems that the IP is in the same field of work that your company is in so their legal position is stronger than yours.

If there are no agreements between you and your company then your legal position is stronger but it would still be weaker than your company’s legal position.  The courts usually take the view that IP created by an employee belongs to the employer.  Note that this view does not apply to independent contractors where the result is the opposite.  However from your facts you seem to be an employee.

In summary, considering you fact that the IP you created on your own time is in the same field of work as your company is in, it is likely that the IP you created belongs to your company.  

I would recommend that if your ideas are rejected by your company that you ask your company to release those ideas to you.  This may involve some negotiation and an agreement will have to be created.  Contact an IP attorney to help you in this matter.  The advantage of this approach is that it will reduce the risk of litigation later on if you do use the ideas.  Another advantage is that the consideration you have to provide your company to release the ideas will be less than what you would have to pay later on if you do use the ideas and they were successful.  An example of this is Facebook.  If Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, got an agreement from the Winklevoss twins to release the idea to him I am sure he would have had to give them far less consideration than the millions he paid them after Facebook was successful.

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