By coincidence my contract was up for review just as tilly posted his Works for Hire article. It did indeed have a clause regarding IP rights and I queried it. I was told that it was only in regard to what I did in work time, and that my own personal IP was protected by UK law. Our company lawyer said that in 1977 the Government at that time accepted a number of principles which were incorporated with in the Patents Act 1977 ss39-43, or "the Employees Inventions code."
Now I'm no lawyer, and I havn't read the Patents Act but we are afforded some protection I think (in the UK at least).
An interesting point that was also made was that unless they put a clause in to specificaly protect them, if an element of the contract is found to be in contravention to the local laws then the entire contract can be ruled invalid :-).
As I said I'm no expert, and its well worth discussing such contract clauses in advance of employment when possible. That way both parties know where they stand and things can remain amicable. I decided to join the MSF Union in order to have access to free legal advice that will be working for me :-)
As it came to it, my concerns with my employer became mute as my role was made redundant shortly after the contract negotiations and before I had to sign the new contract :-}, so I am available for work at no notice :-)
---If it doesn't fit use a bigger hammer
In reply to Re: (OT) Professional Employees: who owns your thoughts?