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My employer's Code of Business Conduct & Ethics document that I have to sign has the following snippet. My employer is in oil and gas in Calgary, Canada. I have artistic projects like games that I've built in my spare time on my own machine and technical projects like machine learning research and papers that are unrelated to my employer's area of work which may constitute IP. Please tell me if this snippet means the employer owns those or if they are still mine.

The snippet:

Ownership, Protection and Proper Use of Corporate Assets

Our Company is involved in leading edge and technically advanced forward-thinking work which could result in new inventions or discoveries. We encourage you to utilize your expertise and talent to assist us in reaching our long-term business goals. It is important that you understand that your work is the sole and exclusive property of Company. This includes, but is not limited to, writings, works of authorship, technology, inventions, discoveries, processes, techniques and methods that are created and prepared by you individually or jointly with others during the period of your employment at Company or engagement by Company.

In addition, you are entrusted with our assets that we all must protect from loss, damage, misuse, or theft. Our assets may only be used for legitimate business purposes and may never be used for illegal purposes. The obligation to protect our assets is not limited to physical assets but extends to proprietary information. Proprietary information includes any information that is not generally known to the public, would be helpful to our competitors, or harmful to our competitive positions.

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  • Have you asked your company's legal department?
    – phoog
    Oct 17, 2023 at 22:50
  • @phoog, Yes I have, and verbally, they assure me the company is pretty common-sensical about it, but I haven't received anything in writing Oct 17, 2023 at 22:59

1 Answer 1

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Your employer owns everything “created and prepared by you … during the period of your employment”

At least, that’s the plain meaning of the clause.

So, if you write a novel, they own that. If you write on a birthday card to your Aunt Ethel, they own that (the IP, Ethel owns the card). If you and your 5-year-old collaborate on a school project about penguins, they own that.

But they don’t own anything that already exists.

However, in the absence of a clear intention to the contrary, such clauses are usually interpreted to mean IP created that is related to your employment. So, anything that has to do with oil and gas or other aspects of their business. Aunt Ethel and the penguins are probably safe, but, it would be better if the clause was explicit about that.

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