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Suppose I wanted to release some code I wrote for my employer as an open source project, who at the company would be allowed to do that in the eyes of the law?

I ask about open source, but I suppose the question is more general than that: who is allowed to license work that a company owns?

My first thought is that the owner would have to do that, but then I realized that many companies don't have sole owners, and people in the company (such as managers) buy/sell assets that the company owns all the time, so it seems that employees have certain authorities to manage company property. How does that work with intellectual property?

  • Any person who has the ability to enter into a legal agreement on behalf of the company should be able to authorize the release of open source code for the company. These types of people are usually well spelled out in an organization. – Ron Beyer Feb 14 at 16:55
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    @RonBeyer That is not a comment, it is an answer. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 14 at 17:33
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The internal organizational documents and practices of the company would determine this in terms of actual authority and would vary from company to company even within the same jurisdiction of organization and entity type.

For example, one company might give that authority to the general counsel, another to the corporate secretary, a third to the Vice President for Information Technology, and a fourth to their Chief Innovation Officer, yet another might allow any officer of the company to do so, or might allow any employee of the company to do so. Usually, the more often a company does something and the more routine it is to do that, the lower down in the organization the authority is allocated.

Anyone who appeared to have the authority to do so to a reasonably third-party, however, could bind the company even if they didn't actually have the authority to do so.

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