I will be interviewing with Google in the upcoming months, I plan to share an interesting Idea for something I want to implement during my 20% time during the interview, because showing that one can come up with new product ideas has to help in an interview. In theory Google could then refuse to hire me, but implement my idea I presented to them and profit off of it without crediting me if they chose to.

Now I'm not really concerned about this, even assuming Google deemed my idea worth implementing I don't see Google trying to steal it (It's not worth the bad press that would result). Furthermore this particular idea is essentially only viable if implemented by Google, meaning even if the idea was stolen I wouldn't really be at a lost since I can't do anything with the idea without Google.

However, I am curious what the legal status would be if I was concerned about my idea being stolen. Would someone in the theoretical position of having someone implement a product they pitched (without getting a contract signed ahead of time) have any recourse to try to get recognition for their idea? Would there be any steps, short of forcing an interviewer to sign a contract before pitching your idea, someone in such a situation theoretically could take prior to presenting their idea to help ensure they got recognition for it?

I imagine the answer is no, but maybe I'm wrong :)

  • 1
    Basically, there is no law requiring anyone to give you credit, except in some cases of artistic works and copyright law. Ideas are not protected by copyright. So you are correct, "no".
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 1:28

1 Answer 1


If you're concerned about the potential for the idea to be stolen, you can propose a contract which forbids them to attempt to capitalize on your idea. Obviously, there's a bit of a disparity in bargaining power in a job interview situation, though, so this may not be the most practical idea.

But even if you can't head the problem off preemptively, there actually does seem to be a possibility of a legal remedy. While copyright law obviously doesn't protect ideas, a wronged plaintiff could theoretically collect through an action for conversion, which requires a showing of "ownership or right to possession of property, wrongful disposition of the property right and damages." G.S. Rasmussen & Assocs., Inc. v. Kalitta Flying Serv., Inc., 958 F.2d 896, 906 (9th Cir. 1992)

California courts and the Ninth Circuit have interpreted "property" very broadly for purposes of conversion claims, to include intangible property including:

I can see some relevant differences between these cases and an idea that's just bouncing around in a person's head, so it would probably still be a bit of a leap to try to apply these cases to an idea stolen in a job interview. But it may be that an interviewee who took some more concrete steps toward developing the idea could increase the likelihood of protecting the idea. And it may be that just fixing the idea by writing up a proposal to show a prospective employer could be enough to bring the case within the scope of copyright or unfair business practice protection, depending on what the idea actually is.

For some more reading on the protection available to business ideas in California, you can also check out this article.

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