building an application at work, want to spin it into a business


I am building a custom sales portal at my place of employment, a large company. I would like to start a saas business that uses the same features I am building for the custom project at work. I want to leverage the knowledge I have, not just steal the code and use it to start a business.

What do I need to be worried about? If someone finds out a couple years down the road that I started the business and the solution looks very similar to the custom solution I developed at work, could they try to sue me? Should I have a separate developer completely rewrite the code from scratch to protect my self? I want to make sure what I'm doing is legit.

The UI uses an open source UI Framework, so the saas proudct I want to create would use the same and ultimately look very similar.

Legal Saas Intellectual Property

asked Mar 31 '13 at 10:36
Jack Smorenson
6 points
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  • "The UI uses an open source UI Framework". Under what license is this framework licensed? If it is GPL, then any software built using this framework must also be licensed under the GPL license. As a result of this, you may be able to request a copy of the source code from your employer, and they would need to issue it under the terms of the GPL license. Of course if it is licensed under a different open source license, then you may need to check the license and see if you can request a copy of the code. – Gavin Coates 8 years ago

2 Answers


This is a very tricky subject and one you should probably consult a solicitor / lawyer about. In short you need to look at your employment contact, this might very well state that what you produce or invent while at work is the property of your employer, it might also contain clauses that prevent you directly competing with them or working for somebody who does.

If those clauses would stand up in court however is a different matter all together.

What country are you based in? As the laws are very different for every country. In England for example you can't get IP protection on code as far as I know, but you can on the 'business process' so the ideas behind the code.

Something else to consider is that if your current employer find out what you plan on doing then you could end up being sacked for gross misconduct (again depending on your contract).

answered Apr 1 '13 at 01:34
63 points
  • Thanks for your response! I'm in California. I didn't mention that the company I work is not in the software business at all, they are a consumer product company. I wouldn't be competing in any way. Also the software is very generic and not tied to any proprietary business processes or anything like that. What kind of lawyer should I reach out to? One that specializes in startups or IP or?? thx! – Jack Smorenson 8 years ago
  • You probably would be best off finding a contract lawyer. In my non-expert opinion, the normal non-compete IP ownership clauses won't apply as long as you start it over from scratch, but you definitely should get professional advice. – Hexedpackets 8 years ago
  • As hexedpackets says you would be best talking to a lawyer who has experience dealing with IP and/or contract law – Matthew 8 years ago


You are considering a move into potentially dangerous territory.

The greatest risk probably is a claim by your current employer that you misappropriated its trade secrets for your benefit.

The only way you can obtain a definitive answer to your questions it to provide all relevant documents and facts to a lawyer so s/he can render a legal opinion.

Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

answered Apr 1 '13 at 13:36
Dana Shultz
6,015 points

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