I just got a contract of employment for a new job and it has a clause that starts like this:

all Intellectual Property generated by you during your employment will be owned by the Group.

When it says "during your employment" does that mean during working hours or everything I do including evenings and weekends?

As currently worded the rest of the clause basically says "we own everything you make". Even Facebook posts and this question would belong to the group.

I sometimes work on open source project, I write for an RPG publisher, I'm half way through writing a novel. All outside work time.

Would this clause hit those sort of activities?

  • 1
    Have you considered asking your employer to amend this clause? Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 11:14
  • @user253751 I am already doing that. It's a massive company though so I've no idea how much actual flexibility they have and so I wanted to try and work out how real of a problem it is before I caused too much fuss. Worst case I might just ammend/annotate that clause myself before signing.
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 11:18
  • A contract that demands anything you ever make sounds amoral and voidable.
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 16:13
  • @Trish Hmm "Ever" was sloppy wording sorry, only for the duration of the employment but they permanently own everything I make during that time no matter whether it's evenings/weekends/holidays/whatever.
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 16:55
  • @Trish indeed. Intellectual property includes love poems and photographs. The employer surely cannot claim ownership of the intellectual property rights in your vacation snapshots or even, if you are employed as a computer programmer, in your weekend hobby as a sculptor or fan fiction writer.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 17:39

2 Answers 2


The accepted answer here seems to provide good information. It's geared towards academia, but the legal points should be common to other occupations.

In summary, if the activity could be considered part of your normal or specifically assigned duties, your employer may have grounds to argue that specific Intellectual Property was created "during your employment".

If your job description involves retail, and no one has specifically said "write a novel", this is unlikely to be regarded as "during your employment".

(If someone has said "write a novel", there should also be some consideration (ie. payment) from your employer for the additional duties.)

If your employment involves writing code, that might be something of a grey area. Written clarification from your employer - in particular regarding financial consideration - would be useful.

  • Thank you, that is helpful.
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 14:50
  • Note that this does only apply to work time -
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 15:10
  • @Trish - I'm not sure what that means. It's the stuff done outside normal working hours that Tim seems to be asking about, and the SE Academia page specifically mentions weekends and cites Section 39 of the Patents Act 1977 ("Right to employees' inventions"). Are you saying Section 39 only applies in work hours, or that this is defined in another Act? I'm not seeing that - can you point me at a definition? Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 15:25
  • "in the course of the duties of the employee". The duty to work ends when the work time ends and thus any stuff you do outside of work - unless it is the "special obligation" from section 39 (1b) - is governed by Section 39 (2), and belongs to EMPLOYEE - you have no duty to work for your employer outside of work time.
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 16:08
  • @Trish where did the text "in the course of the duties of the employee" come from? I do not see it in the question.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 17:41

I asked HR the same question when a job offer included “life insurance cover in case I die during my employment” and was told that was 24/7 from my first day to my last day of employment.

The term is unclear. I’d ask them, obviously, and you need to see if you can accept their interpretation. If they say “during your employment” means “during your work time” then you can ask them to change it. Otherwise you might have to see them in court one day an you would have to hope that the judge decides in your favour.

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