Can I create open source out of an idea I voiced at my current employer after I quit?


Can I create open source out of an idea I voiced at my current employer after I quit?

I've had this idea which would make the work my company does, and its competitors, more efficient. I voiced it to a co-worker as something we could do unofficially for our company and reveal it to our boss/company once finished. He's the only one that knows the details.

This co-worker is not a friend. He's not unfriendly, but I don't trust him to not mention to hire ups that "he and I" came up with this idea while I was employed and now I'm implementing that idea after quitting.

Am I, the idea and any code I write in this regard safe from legal complications?

I know this isn't about a start-up.. my apologies. Just thought you guys might know.


Legal Intellectual Property Open Source

asked Jul 17 '13 at 10:45
11 points
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  • You say yourself that you came up with the idea on company time, time that they presumably paid you for in good faith, so the answer is... It may depend on your jurisdiction, contract (implied or otherwise), etc, but really it seems like you should take steps to protect your position, if you decide to proceed. Step one: Buy proper advice. – Steve Jones 9 years ago

1 Answer


I'm not a lawyer, but ideas are cheap. I've got thousands of them myself! What mostly counts is being the first to exploit the idea -- both from a legal and (if you exploit it well) business perspective.

If your company owned all the ideas you may have expressed to someone while you were working there, you'd probably never write another line of code.

I would guess that a key element (again, not being a lawyer) is whether you wrote down and communicated your idea under the auspices of your old company (such as using their e-mail or as an official comnpany communication), or otherwise used your company's resources (such as a computer) to work on the project.

The next step ought to be to talk to a lawyer. I'd be interested in what she or he says.

answered Jul 18 '13 at 00:41
61 points
  • Much agreed and upvoted. Ideas cannot be owned or patented, at least not to my knowledge – Christian 9 years ago
  • This eases my concerns a bit so thank you. What I'm hearing from you is "It's probably ok, but hire a lawyer just to be sure". Will do. – Btd 9 years ago

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Legal Intellectual Property Open Source