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Re: (OT) Professional Employees: who owns your thoughts?

by TacoVendor (Pilgrim)
on Aug 13, 2002 at 15:06 UTC ( #189819=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to (OT) Professional Employees: who owns your thoughts?

The company I work for is not a technical company at all. The office I am in has a staff of about 20. We own a few companies, and of all of these, I am the only real technical person. Recently I was handed one of these contracts that said in effect: anything you create is ours.

Now, being that I have good relationships with all of the top management (I report directly to the president) and with the owner this may have gone over much easier for me...

I let them know that there was no way I was going to sign the agreement due to other work that I do, have done, or may do. I explained to them that I understand that they employ engineers of many flavours, but many things can be learned or developed that are not learned from on the job experience. I gave them examples of ideas that I have that have nothing whatsoever to do with the company or any they owned. Some had to do with certain code I am trying to work on, one specific electronic circuit I have been hacking away on would improve a few logic issues in my pinball machine, etc.

Then, the oddest thing came about. They understood! They had me write up changes to the agreement that I thought should be in there. I wrote up one bit that said they had no rights to any idea developed or improved upon outside of company time and not using company equipment. They came back with a stipulation that we would *share equally* any 'invention' that was related directly to the company's primary business (not computer related at all) and that any disagreements would be settled by a mutally chosen independant arbitrator. As long as any other idea is not created on their equipment or time, they would not claim any rights. For any ideas that had nothing to do with the company but were developed using an office computer, etc., they would have first shot at claiming it. Again, disagreements sent to an arbitrator first.

All of this got sent to their lawyers and translated into legal jargon. My lawyer looked it over and said that he agreed that it was very fair for both sides.

The moral here is that asking for changes is not just blanketly seen as a bad thing by most companies. They usually just don't want someone stealing their ideas and taking them to a competitor if you happen to leave. Show that you have good intentions, and they will usually do the same.

I am the TacoVendor (on my own time of course)

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