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Scenario:

I work at company A and write some code for them which is something trivial but used in a product that is proprietary and hence the code is company property.

Then I leave the company A and join company B.

Company B needs something that can use the code and logic I learned in company A. There is very little I can change in code I learned at company A to get the similar functionality.

Question:

  1. Am I infringing on the copyrights of company A because the code is similar?
  2. Is it possible to copyright ideas and logic such that if you designed something in company A you may never design it, even from scratch, in company B?

Are there any workarounds? Otherwise you'd run out of your skills due to all your work being copyrighted somewhere or other.

  • Ideas themselves are not copyrightable. The expression (actual code) is copyrightable. Are there any workarounds? Otherwise you'd run out of your skills due to all your work being copyrighted somewhere or other - This is not true. Fiction authors, for example, are perfectly capable of producing original works, despite the fact that they constantly reuse ideas, grammatical expressions, idioms, and so on. Writing programs works more or less the same way as far as copyright is concerned. Reusing idioms, common expressions, or imitating a writing style are generally not copyright infringing. – Brandin May 28 '18 at 8:13
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Algorithms can be patented, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSA_(cryptosystem)#Patent (and see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent for further discussion).

Copyright is only for specific code. So if your Company A has copyrighted the code you wrote, but not patented the algorithms implemented by that code, then you can subsequently go to Company B and legally reprogram those same algorithms.

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