Thanks in advance for any suggestions or help.

I work for a large software corporation and have in my employment contract the standard clauses saying the company owns essentially any idea of mine regardless of if its during or outside office hours.

I have a handful of hobby project ideas that I believe could earn good money that are completely outside the industry I work in. I understand because its "software" my corporation could claim ownership regardless.

Is there any loopholes I could use to avoid this as the corporation doesn't seem interested in the idea of having contact amendments to allow the ownership with me.

If I was employeed by Microsoft and then took a sneaky second job at Apple, could Microsoft claim ownership of any IP I worked on while working at Apple? Could I say create an organisation or a trust or something that "owned" the solution which would only mean i have violated my contract and be sacked, over them taking ownership?

This is likely dependent on country, region etc. but just seeing what options there are as currently I feel my only option is to leave the organisation.

I understand I would need proper legal advice, just trying to work out if its worth pursuing lawyers to help on this or just giving up.

  • 2
    If you violate your contract, being sacked isn't the only possible consequence. "Microsoft" can also sue you for damages resulting from the breach. I don't know exactly what that would involve, but I could imagine it being the full value of your invention, or all the profits you earned from it, or all the profits they think they could have earned from it. Nov 10, 2019 at 9:58
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    The best thing to do is to approach your employer with your idea and say "can I please pursue this on my own time?" 99.99% of the time if they have no interest or business in that field, they will say "sure, go for it". You keep your job and your IP. Creating trusts just heightens the suspicion of guilt, and even if you end up keeping the IP, you may be paying mega-bucks to fight for it in court.
    – Ron Beyer
    Nov 10, 2019 at 16:31
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    You might post the snippet of the exact wording of the core or the agreement and tell what state you are in. The law varies significantly by state and exact wording. Nov 10, 2019 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


In many employment contracts there is wording like "I hereby assign all . . . ". That language is designed to say whatever falls under the scope of the agreement is signed over to the the company's ownership even before you think of it. This wording became popular because of a patent suit case like your Microsoft/Apple example where a researcher was working for two institutions at the time he made a very valuable invention. The organization with "I hereby assign" beat the one with "I agree to assign [after I invent something]".

If your employee agreement says "I hereby assign" then they already own the idea and it not just money they can take from you but the invention itself.

If you are lucky enough to be in California there are limits on what your employer can demand in an employment agreement.

As one comment said, ask the company.

  • "If you are lucky enough to be in California there are limits on what your employer can demand in an employment agreement." You mean unlucky enough. You can say "no" to any demand in any State. In California, there's a greater set of agreements that you can't say "yes" to even if the additional compensation you could get by offering those greater rights to your employer make it worth it to you to accept such an arrangement. May 7, 2021 at 7:45
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    Also true. I understand the theoretical appeal of the libertarian ideal. But, In practice, most people in most companies live under a standard, non-negotiable, company-wide employment agreement where the company often takes the maximum of rights allowed by state law. May 7, 2021 at 18:59
  • That shows that the law is actually harming employees by forcing (on both parties) an outcome that makes the employees less valuable to the employer than they would be without the law. If there was a law that said employees couldn't work more than 10 hours a week, of course nearly all employees would be working 10 hours a week, and that would clearly suggest that the law is harming employees by reducing their value. The evidence of strong connections between an employee's value to their employer and the compensation they can get for their labor is overwhelming. May 8, 2021 at 0:11
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    indentured servitude should pay well May 8, 2021 at 18:24
  • Quite the reverse. The circumstances of indentured servitude significantly reduce the employee's value to the employer, which explains the low compensation. When an employee has no incentive to work hard to keep their job and the employer doesn't have the leverage of threatening to fire the employee, the value to the employer drops. It's a huge hassle for employers to deal with employees who don't have strong incentives to keep their jobs, resulting in lower wages in those circumstances. May 8, 2021 at 19:58

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