I have been given approval from the company I work at to be able to own my side projects. I am a Support Technician (Customer Service) who does not code anything during my work day. However, my company does know I want to be a Software Developer and want to apply to that position at the same company (some day). This company is not located in California.

I have NEVER coded, developed, or physically worked on any of these projects on company hardware. I have however google searched and researched information about Spring Boot and it's plugins using a company computer (but not on company time). These technologies are the same I use in my projects.

I have only conducted this research hours after standard operating hours have concluded.

Can the company claim ownership of my projects?

This is the exact, and full, contract clause I signed:

"This following is a complete and current list of all inventions that have been or being developed by me on my own time, which do no relate to "Insert Company Name"'s business or its actual or demonstrably anticipated research and development, and for which no equipment, supplies, facility, or trade secret information of "Insert Company Name" has been or will be used. (Note: If an employee is unsure as to whether the development relates to the business, he or she must get approval from a supervisor prior to commencing development. If this process is not followed, Employee agrees that the work will be considered a work for hire.)"

  • This is a dangerous area to play in, best not to do any "side job" research during company time. It's not clear, but I assume your company gave you permission to do this outside company hours? If so, you're violating that agreement...
    – Ron Beyer
    Dec 25, 2021 at 23:02
  • Just for clarification. I have not been doing this within company hours. Only using a computer to conduct the research. However, couldn't this research just be considered basic\generic studying to become a Developer? -As I do study a lot. Only a portion of the research/study matriculates into the projects. But, again, that is only because I do not know how to code and am learning.
    Dec 25, 2021 at 23:07

2 Answers 2


Does 'Doing Research' Count as 'Working On' a Personal Project On Company Property?

That seems unlikely since you mean something as generic as a beginner learning how to code. Otherwise one would have to conclude that also an illiterate person who is learning how to read and write is "doing research". Not all [self-]training qualifies as research.

Can the company claim ownership of my projects?

You say that the company already authorized (in writing, I hope) you to own your side projects. As long as you and the company are on the same page regarding your side projects, the company's approval of your updates forfeits claims of company's ownership of those projects.



Research is, in fact, a job. Universities, libraries and laboratories are in the business of research.

Since research is a job, doing research is “working”.

  • That’s as clean a formal logic deduction as it gets, kudos on that! But, in the question, it appears to me from the comments of OP that one of the premises (on what is “research” — for the purpose of employment law, and likely for whatever contract OP and the company has, is fundamentally — flawed, and the conclusion would not necessarily follow the premises.
    – kisspuska
    Dec 27, 2021 at 19:02

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