Employer wants rights to intellectual property.

(26 Posts)
GiveMePrivacy Sun 18-Feb-18 14:57:28

A friend has been offered a job with good salary. She's very young and wants the job, but the contract says the employer would own the right to any intellectual property she creates during the period she is employed. It does not say "created for our company" or anything to suggest it would only be work related. The job is not one which would normally involve any creative work, so it's not a question of the company protecting work that it has paid for. My friend does a bit of programming for fun and some of her projects may have some commercial potential, so she doesn't want to compromise that. Is this sort of thing common now? Do we need to get a solicitor to look at it? If so, do we need a specialist, or is this the sort of thing a high street solicitor could advise on? Any leads would be appreciated.

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MercianQueen Sun 18-Feb-18 15:27:39

If she's creating code, I'd expect it to be standard. I've only ever contracted third parties to develop code (rather than employ someone directly, iyswim) and I've always insisted on a clause where we own the intellectual property and the code and rights are formally handed over as part of the statement of work.

MercianQueen Sun 18-Feb-18 15:28:55

Should have clarified, of course, she should always get a contract looked over if she's not sure.

Globetrotter100 Sun 18-Feb-18 15:31:24

It's a fairly standard standard clause.

derenstar Sun 18-Feb-18 15:31:35

I can’t speak for other industries but this is pretty much standard for my industry (HE).

bumpertobumper Sun 18-Feb-18 15:34:04

I think this is a fairly standard clause, but most people it isn't an issue as they aren't creating stuff outside of work.
As it is potentially an issue for her she should get an employment lawyer to look at it, or at least a HR consultant.
Or the employer may be happy to just take it out or adjust if she raises it.
My DP has this come up with someone he hired at the company where he works, it was in the standard contract and someone who does their own programming asked to have it changed, which he did.

zzzzz Sun 18-Feb-18 15:34:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GiveMePrivacy Sun 18-Feb-18 15:39:30

She's not supposed to create code as part of the job. We've been reading up on it and I can see why it's standard to assert the employer's rights to content created during your job, but this contract is so broad, it could almost include them having a right to her first - born child grin Thanks for the input - it's confirmed that she needs to get it looked at. Any pointers for where best to get that input without paying loads? Thanks.

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zzzzz Sun 18-Feb-18 15:44:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HermioneWeasley Sun 18-Feb-18 15:44:32

I would start by talking to her employer. It’s very unlikely that they are seeking to have IP rights over stuff she develops in her own time and wholly unconnected to work. Chances are they’ll just provide an email or similar to clarify without her having to spend anything.

flowery Sun 18-Feb-18 17:02:56

What Hermione said.

It would be difficult for them to enforce a requirement that something she does entirely in her own time and without any use of company resources should belong to them, and I expect it’s badly drafted rather than intended that way.

“Created in the course of your employment” would be more usual wording, or something similar.

HermioneWeasley Sun 18-Feb-18 18:47:15

waves to flowery

OutyMcOutface Sun 18-Feb-18 18:48:56

It's just a poorly worded clause. She should just point it out to the employer and ask them to correct their mistake before signing.

flowery Sun 18-Feb-18 19:10:35

grin Hermione

BakedBeans47 Sun 18-Feb-18 19:37:43

There’s an implied term that intellectual property created in the course of employment belongs to the employer anyway. The clause could be clearer but any ambiguity will be construed in the employee’s favour anyway. I’d ask them to change it but wouldn’t overthink it.

GiveMePrivacy Mon 19-Feb-18 00:18:40

Thanks very much, everyone. She's quite worried about it, so it's reassuring to read this. She's going to ask why it's not the usual standard clause & see if they will change it so her personal projects are specifically excluded.

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PonderLand Mon 19-Feb-18 00:39:51

My DP has similar wording in his employment contract. He isn't allowed to do what he does in the company for anyone else unless it's for free, and even then he needs their permission. He also had to ask for permission to show the work he's created for the company when putting together a showreel for future employment. They could easily say no and he'd have nothing to show for the last 4 years of his career. Luckily they're reasonable people, your friends employers might be too!

LemonysSnicket Mon 19-Feb-18 01:26:34

I’m only young but every job I’ve had had stated that too...

Amoregentlemanlikemanner Mon 19-Feb-18 20:50:45

Hi, I’m an intellectual property lawyer.
Your friend needs to do what Hermione said.

Pumpkinisland89 Mon 19-Feb-18 21:02:46

I've never had a job where it hasn't said it.
A lomg time ago I was told that it just relates to stuff you make/design during works time or using works materials.

flowery Mon 19-Feb-18 21:38:11

*”I've never had a job where it hasn't said it.
A lomg time ago I was told that it just relates to stuff you make/design during works time or using works materials.”*

The issue is the clause the OP refers to doesn’t only relate to stuff created in works time. It’s probably just badly drafted but the very broad meaning isn’t usual at all.

museumum Mon 19-Feb-18 21:54:31

It needs to be more specific. An accountancy firm can’t claim IP of a novel written by an accountant in their spare time!

Amoregentlemanlikemanner Tue 20-Feb-18 08:27:41

Look OP

When you have a headache, you don’t go and read the whole of a neurology textbook. You do what works. Options include paracetamol and a nice walk. If those don’t work you call your GP.

IP is the same. The basics are very complex. The solutions here are, however, simple.

Do not engage the poor employer in a debate about ip in software. It will probably end badly.

Just do what Hermione said.

GiveMePrivacy Tue 20-Feb-18 17:41:40

Thanks people! I really am asking for a friend, not myself, and she does need some guidance. I will keep emphasising the advice given here & suggest she does not go in all guns blazing.

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GiveMePrivacy Mon 26-Feb-18 23:28:53

I think it's all sorted out now. As you all advised, she emailed employer for clarification. Took a bit of to-and-fro but she detailed her personal projects and they said ok, these were excluded. They want her to check any future projects as they arise. I'm still surprised at how general and all-encompassing the contract is, but think this will work for her now.
Thank you very much for the input - it was really appreciated.

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