What can we do?

With respect to this topic, I found this anecdote. But I don't work for Facebook, and we have nowhere near the clout or the user base they do. I'm not 100% sure why Facebook was able to nail this kid so harshly, but obviously billions of people use Facebook whereas our smaller company is not such a security risk

Nonetheless, can we sue our former employee? I'm surprised this kid even got jailed for it; I'm not interested in putting my former friend and colleague in prison. We just want them to stop stealing our business

We have a one-man legal team and are just a startup

Other resources I've looked at:

  1. https://embeddedgurus.com/stack-overflow/2012/02/why-you-really-shouldnt-steal-source-code/
  2. http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2013/02/16/a-guide-to-patenting-software-getting-started/id=35629/
  3. https://www.quora.com/Why-don%E2%80%99t-people-just-steal-open-source-code-do-a-quick-restructuring-and-sell-it-commercially-as-their-own-Is-there-a-way-to-prove-if-you-think-someone-is-using-your-OS-code-in-a-closed-source-code-format-for-profit
  4. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/154155/should-you-keep-a-copy-of-all-the-code-you-write
  5. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-05-29/chinese-citizen-pleads-guilty-to-stealing-treasury-software

Based on a look at that article, you should be able to punish that employee. Our Intellectual Property systems are based around the theories of Locke and others. Society does not function well if individuals cannot keep the wealth they create, and that Facebook case shows how severely a student was punished merely for obtaining source code, whereas your coworker has actually gone and tried to financially benefit from copying your code.

If a lawyer has any input, that would be helpful. I'm not sure how you can actually go about enforcing your legal rights, given your startups "lean" nature


You should talk to an attorney, but based on what you've provided, there are potential claims for copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, conversion, unfair trade practices, and probably quite a bit more.


What you are describing is a copyright violation and you could sue the former employee for violating your copyright in the code if you could prove its source.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.