Businesses often state that anything made during work time or with work resources becomes property of the company.

What if the things worked on belong to another company? For example:

People at company A do stuff on their work time for an unrelated-to-business company B. Does company A have the rights to whatever their employees produce, even though it was for another business? How would this be resolved?

Another example: Bob, at an IT firm, makes software in his free work time for another (non-related) company, which now uses the software that Bob made for their day-to-day activities. Can the IT firm that Bob fully works for take the software back? Or charge for use? Would the company care?

Bonus: What if he only did 10% of the software, then quit and finished the software after quitting? Does the original IT firm own the whole project? Or a part of it? Or something else?

  • How would business "A" feel if business "B" came in and started using the "surplus" copy machine and office supplies?
    – Mr. A
    Nov 21 '15 at 23:30
  • This will depend heavily on location and what any contract or agreement says. Some contracts specify that the employer owns anything the employee does, but these contracts are not enforceable everywhere. Feb 4 '19 at 22:12

If you work on "work time" i.e. you're being paid by employer "A", then the work product belongs to "A." if you are working for "A" and in your non-compensated personal time do work for company "B", then your work for "B" is your own business and "A" doesn't have anything to say. Unless, of course, the work for "B" encompasses "trade secret" or "core business function" assets that relate strongly to "A."

It's a wet, soggy minefield these days, because so much software is about "the business of doing business" and conceptually unrelated to actual trade advantage. This to say: Don't take some internet punter's argument for granted, show the opinion to someone who practices law in your jurisdiction.

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