New startup advice


I work for a church here in California as a gfx designer. 8 months ago I had an idea for a web service we could use at the church I work at. I spoke to my pastor (boss) about the idea and he said let's do it. So the church paid $1500 to create the idea and so we have been using it in our church for 8 months now. So I want to take my idea and do the same thing and recreate it on the side to sell to other churches. I have sign no Employer Protection Agreement. Can I do this or do they own the product. Thank you for any help you can give me.

Legal Intellectual Property

asked Nov 13 '10 at 06:13
31 points
Get up to $750K in working capital to finance your business: Clarify Capital Business Loans

7 Answers


From what I understand CA laws are pretty biased for the worker. If you did not agree to assign rights to the client then it is yours. You will probably want to work out an arrangement with the original client as they did subsidize the work, but that is just the way I would operate. I don't think you are legally obligated to do so.

I doubt they would be interested in a joint venture or other such things - but if it was me I would donate some part of the revenue to the church. Just seems like the right thing to do.(at least until the amount they spent on it was paid back)

answered Nov 13 '10 at 06:26
Tim J
8,346 points
  • Ms so much for your help on this. Anyone else want to give me some feedback. Or legal advice :) – User5366 13 years ago


It is difficult to answer your question for two reasons.

First, it is not clear whether you are an employee or an independent contractor - that issue can have a major impact on who owns what. Please see, for example, Securing IP Requires More than an NDA and Why “Work Made for Hire” is a Term Made for Confusion.

Second, it's not entirely clear what the "idea" is and what you want to do with it for other churches. If it really is a mere idea, then it probably belongs to no one. But if using the idea requires using a copyrighted work or a patentable invention, then you should have a lawyer look at who owns what.

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

answered Nov 15 '10 at 15:15
Dana Shultz
6,015 points
  • Hello Dana yes I work there. And it is a web based program similar to a newsletter but not. – User5366 13 years ago


Move forward but talk to them and negotiate first. Churches are not about running businesses and it is likely that they will have no problems with you doing this, especially if you also attend the church.

Just going ahead with the idea and risking pissing them off is sheer stupidity in my opinion. Most likely scenario is that that would lead to negativity and problems when there is a high probability that you could avoid all that fairly easily.

You want to save all your energy for your startup - not waste it in placating your employer. Talk to them first.

answered Nov 13 '10 at 14:28
Susan Jones
4,128 points
  • I have talked with my pastor/boss about this yesterday and told him I am going to pursue on the side. He had no problem with that. And left it at that. But I just want to make sure because if it makes a lot of money I don't want them coming back to me later. What do you think? Thanks – User5366 13 years ago
  • I would move ahead and get an agreement in writing if he has agreed to it verbally. If it was me, I would summarise what you talked about on paper and ask him to sign it. I would then test the idea by talking to some other churches about it. If I felt I had enough real interest to feel confident the business was viable I would ask a lawyer to draw up a simple agreement stating that you have the right to use the IP to develop a business. This assumes that you have a legal right to use the IP in the first place. – Susan Jones 13 years ago
  • I doubt he will sign anything he is just kind of like that. Again I have not sign any agreement working there. And he know it's my idea and I came up with it. I don't think he would lie about that. I have also talked to a few churches and they want it asap. Yeah I may need to go talk to a lawyer. What do you think. Thanks – User5366 13 years ago
  • I think you need to find a strategy to mitigate the risk that there could be a dispute about the IP in the future. If the laws where you are attribute the IP to you then you don't have a problem. Where I live the employer usually owns the IP even if you are working as a freelancer unless you have a clear legal agreement otherwise. So in my case it would take a massive amount of trust (and maybe a bit of foolhardiness) go ahead on this basis. – Susan Jones 13 years ago


In a nutshell, unless you signed an agreement giving them the copyright or you signed a "Work For Hire" agreement, you own the copyright. It sounds backwards, but the contractor owns the idea even if he/she got paid to do it.

Just my experience, but I AM NOT A LAWYER.

answered Nov 14 '10 at 05:44
Matthew Dorian
292 points


In a nutshell, unless you signed an agreement giving them the copyright or you signed a "Work For Hire" agreement, you own the copyright. It sounds backwards, but the contractor owns the idea even if you got paid to do it.

Just my experience, but I AM NOT A LAWYER.

answered Nov 14 '10 at 05:47
Matthew Dorian
292 points


You probably have the right to develop again and resell it. You seem to have the pastor's permission which is good. You shouldn't do it behind their back. You may want to consider offering them some sort of additional payment if they agree to continue to test and provide leads for you.

answered Nov 14 '10 at 13:04
Jeff O
6,169 points


Your owner does not own the idea. I would move forward. The worst case is that you will get sued dont the line (not likely), and that they would be looking for a settlement. I would not look into a join venture. I would simply re -create the service with multiple clients in mind. Finding a church marketing list is very easy to do. Marketing to churches is also easy to do as compared to other business groups.

I wish you the best of luck.

answered Nov 13 '10 at 08:50
2,079 points
  • I am very disappointed by the amount of people who follow rules and lack spines.. Its saddening. – Frank 13 years ago

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:

Legal Intellectual Property