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My company has asked me to sign an "assignment of intellectual property" contract. This is standard practice, I understand the purpose, and I've signed a dozen of them before. But this one is a little different than the ones I've signed in the past.

The language is something like (obviously paraphrasing):

... all inventions while you work here, except those qualified under California Labor Code 2870, belong to the company.

California Labor Code 2870 specifies that only work done that is related to the company or using company time or resources can be implicitly assigned to the company.

Here's my question: If I am not a California resident, and I am signing this for employment not in California, do those exceptions still apply to me?

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If I am not a California resident, and I am signing this for employment not in California, do those exceptions still apply to me?

They probably don't apply by law (unless the state where you work has similar provisions). They will apply if your employer has made them part of your contract, or part of its policy.

A company is not required to follow the laws of some other state (or country) unless those laws somehow apply to it. But a company is free to adopt the laws of some other jurisdiction as the basis of its policy, and write them into its contracts. It might do so because other parts of the company are subject to those laws, and the company prefers to have a uniform, consistent policy. It might be because the company thinks that by not claiming unrelated IP from employees, those employees will be happier, and thus more loyal and productive. It might be because company managers think unrelated IP is usually not of great value to the company, and handling it is in general more trouble than it is worth. There might be other reasons. But this is a bushiness choice that the company can make, for whatever reason.

It is also possible that the California law does apply to the company, and to you, if enough of the company's business is in CA, depending on how the law is written. I haven't checked on how the law is in fact written.

In any case, the company can use the law as their policy, even if they are not required to..

The answer by Dale M reads:

Where you live is irrelevant.

The applicable employment law in the state where you work (or where your work.

This many not be fully accurate. A state or other jurisdiction could write an employment law to apply to those who live there. For example, a few years ago, Montgomery County, Maryland passed a local law regulating how sick pay was to be handled for county residents. My then employer had to alter its policy for, and only for, residents of that county. It affected my pay, and was explained to me in detail by company HR. So laws of both the place where the employee works an where s/he lives may apply.

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No and Yes

Where you live is irrelevant.

The applicable employment law in the state where you work (or where your work is based for jobs that require interstate travel e.g. truck drivers, aircrew).

So, no, California law on the assignment of IP does not apply to you - the law where you work does.

But, yes, they can refer to it in a contract and, by that reference make it a part of the contract. In effect, they are using the State of California's definition rather than writing a definition in.

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  • "Where you live is irrelevant." Perhaps not. See my answer. Sep 15, 2022 at 4:18

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