Is it illegal to sell a software template created at work but duplicated and augmented at home?


I am an employee at a large company and I created a worksheet using my work computer. The worksheet helps me organize my info such as passwords and time-off records. I replicated it and then augmented at home on my home computer. It has nothing to do with the duties I am paid to fulfill and the product is completely generic, not specific to any industry and definitely non-competitive to the product my employer sells. It contains no information relating to my employer. Do I own it and can I sell it on my own time for personal profit (on eBay e.g.)? What is your advice?

Software Employees Office Intellectual Property Computers

asked Feb 28 '12 at 11:36
Es Developer
11 points
  • No. It is not illegal. But I don't think that is really what you mean to ask. You may have problems with your employer - and they may own the work. You need to ask them about it or check your employment contract. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • Probably not illegal but ethical. – Bhargav Patel 12 years ago

4 Answers


Without knowing in what country or state/land/province you live and without seeing your employment contract, nobody can give you a definite answer.

Generally, it doesn't matter whether the product is generic, whether it has anything to do with your primary duties, whether it's competitive to your employer, or what it actually does.

What matters is whether you created it on company time, whether you used any equipment owned by your employer, and the terms of intellectual property ownership in your employment contract.

Given that you admit using your employer's computer, it's safe to presume the work was done on company time. Thus, it's very likely that your employer owns the product of the work and you can't profit of it. (See Bratz dolls history on what can happen if you create something profitable on company time & go independent.)

answered Feb 28 '12 at 12:58
1,963 points


A lot of this depends on if you created the Software in your free time (after office hours and weekends). Again, there can be legal obligations related to specific contract agreements in your employment or in the Country where you created the Software.

Best bet would be to read through the laws related to such and also read through your current employment contract with a fine tooth comb. Usually, if the venture is in some way related to the company where you work (there can be many reasons for this); the Organization may try to vest control, through the legal system.

That aside, if you think you have a product at hand, which you can sell and it does in no way affect your work and Organization + you created the product in your own free time, outside the Organization, then go ahead and make it commercially viable!

Best of Luck.

answered Feb 28 '12 at 12:16
161 points


Why don't you just ask your employer if they have any objections to you selling this worksheet? If they say OK then you are all set.

If they say no, well you did develop it on their computers and perhaps you have learned a valuable lesson. Next time don't do the work on someone elses equipment.

answered Feb 28 '12 at 15:08
Jonny Boats
4,848 points


You don't really explain why you are asking the question in the first place but you do ask if you can profit from it. The simple answer to that question is yes, of course you can. If the only argument here is wether you have a contract with your employer that states that they own everything you create while in their employ then my advice would be to have a family member sell your product under their name. Alternatively you could choose to ignore the contract and go ahead and sell the product under your own name anyway and not concern yourself with your employers opinion on ownership. If you work for a corporation do you think they would care about such a trivial matter to make a buck?

The reason we have polluted air, global warming, dwindling resources and raising cancer rates is due to the actions of corporations so I wouldn't worry too much about a little piece of paper that you may have signed under the duress of needing a job or denying them a few bucks profit from your idea.

answered Oct 28 '12 at 19:40
11 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Software Employees Office Intellectual Property Computers