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I've heard in job contracts there can be clauses saying that all intellectual property created by the employee during their employment, belongs to the company, regardless if it's done during hours they are not working.

So for example if a computer programmer works Monday to Friday but on the weekend he develops an app (without using company resources) the company can claim ownership of it. Would such a clause be enforceable? Would it make a difference if it's related to the job or not, for example if the programmer made a painting that became famous, could the company still claim ownership?

What is the name of such clauses?

  • Not enforceable. As an employee you sell certain portion of your time/effort, not everything that your intellect produces. – Greendrake Apr 18 '18 at 9:22
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    Related: law.stackexchange.com/q/24843 – cHao Apr 19 '18 at 3:43
  • @Greendrake: that will depend very much on legislation (the question does not have a country tag). E.g. in Germany, the legal default is already pretty much like the clauses described (with the distinction that it applies only to IP that is of interest to the employer/related to the employer's activities - totally unrelated IP is not affected. But the scope can be pretty broad. And time of day or location do not count) – cbeleites supports Monica Sep 4 '18 at 18:04
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Such clauses are called "copyright assignment", "invention assignment", and/or "works for hire" clauses, partly depending on the clause's intent and wording. They're pretty common in employment contracts for software development and some creative positions.

Frankly, the clauses don't actually do much, at least in the US -- copyright law already recognizes the concept of works made for hire (which belong to the employer), and claims too far beyond that are often rejected if they aren't obviously related to company business.

With that said, your hypothetical programmer's painting is safe unless it depicts, say, the contents of an email from the CEO. :) Even if the clause technically entitles the employer to claim ownership, the employer has no legitimate interest in doing so.

Likewise, that app created outside work is safe as long as it is created using no company resources and is unrelated to the employer's business.

If the app is obviously related, that's where things get hairy.

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