I have an employment contract to sign which contains a clause that states any intellectual property rights for things I produce outside of work will become property of the firm if it relates to their business.

How enforceable is this in Ontario Canada? Is there any history of the courts making decisions on matters like this?

My internet research found nothing relating to time outside of work.

  • Have you found this: smart-biggar-web-com.sitepreview.ca/en/newsletters/… Copyright comes under federal law, so most cases you find across Canada (with the possible exception of Quebec) would likely apply to Ontario as well. In that document, you can find the "Organization/Integration test" that would probably be most relevant here.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


The Copyright Act 13(3) says

Where the author of a work was in the employment of some other person under a contract of service or apprenticeship and the work was made in the course of his employment by that person, the person by whom the author was employed shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright

Case law would address the situation where there is no agreement defining what works of the employee are the property of the employer. In this case, there appears to be something in the employment contract, which would therefore be enforced unless specifically prohibited. There is no law prohibiting a contract clause that says roughly "anything you write while working for us is ours".

It is hard to say whether such a clause would he held to be unconsionable, since we don't know what the clause actually says. The basic test is if a condition is manifestly unfair, it cannot be enforced, but if it works to the advantage of one party, it can be. If the clause extends past the period of employment (forward or backward) it might be unfair. It might be unenforceable if "relates to" is construed over-broadly (for example, if you are hired as a lighting technician for a dance theater company and write sci-fi novels as a hobby, the claim could be that dance and sci-fi are "related" as forms of entertainment, but that would be an unreasonable claim).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .