Does Your Last Job Own Your Side Hustle?
Before you quit your job and start your side hustle, there's something you should know:
Your old company may own the intellectual property rights to your new company.
A company is the legal owner of all works created by employees during their employment. That means everything you created while working at the company, like a website, logo, copy, photography, content, technology, mobile applications, or product designs, belongs to the company. It may even include all the things you created for your new company. Here's how to know for sure:
1. Check your Employment Agreement or Invention Assignment.
These agreements are often signed by new employees. They state that the company owns the intellectual property rights in the work you create. Many of them are too broad and include non-related work or work created even after you've left the company. That's right...your past company can own work you create in a separate field even after you've ended your employment.
To protect employees from this overreach, some states are ruling them illegal. California, for example, says that you own inventions that are developed in your spare time, that did not use any of your employers resources or proprietary information to create, and that do not relate to the company's business.
To protect yourself, keep records of where you are in the project before you started working at the company, throughout major project milestones, and when you leave the company. Keep track of hours worked on the project so you can show that you worked on it during your own time. Send the information to yourself in a weekly email so that you have the dates marked. And it's important to use a separate laptop and other materials.
2. Check your state laws
Check with your state to see how they handle Invention Assignments. If that doesn't apply to you, see how the state handles employee inventions when it comes to related work, non-related work, work created during non-employment hours, and work created after employment.