Transfer of intellectual property due to use of a business equipment (Australian Law)


Hi my name is Aden and this is my first post. I am in a somewhat unusual intellectual property issue and, though I have done a lot of searching, cannot find a direct answer to one of my questions.

Basically I was doing work experience for an organisation (I was definitely not an employee) and I created some software for another organisation while I was there. Recently the question of intellectual ownership of my software has come up and the organisation where I originally created the software (since then I have continued working on it using my own equipment) claims that they have the right to take possession of the intellectual property of my software and gift it to the organisation I created it for. As I was not an employee I don't believe they can do this but they may claim that, because I used their equipment, that they own what I created.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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asked Jan 20 '12 at 21:12
6 points
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5 Answers


Aden, if you didn't sign an agreement giving the company your IP, then you own it, in Australia. Whether you used their equipment is not important for deciding copyright ownership.

You should write them a letter stating that you own the copyright in the software. If you want, you can offer to sell it to them, but you don't have to. Writing a letter helps establish to the employer that you are serious. Also, if they still continued with their plan to give your software to another party, then the existence of your letter would prevent them claiming they weren't aware of your rights.

answered Jan 21 '12 at 11:39
11 points
  • I agree with this (am also in Aus), I believe you need to have signed a contract for them to get IP rights over your work. You should obviously get legal advice though. – Joel Friedlaender 12 years ago


IP right of work by an employee or by trainee done on employer infrastructure should belong to the employer. In many of the work experience contact this is clearly mentioned. Is there any written contact with your employer for work experience? If is mentioned explicitly in such contract, IP belongs to the employer.

In case it is not, the matter becomes subjective. Is the work you created relates to the work experience you gained at the employers place? Did it took substantial time (official) ? You need to be more clear for a clear answers.

answered Jan 20 '12 at 22:32
Natwar Lath
294 points
  • He clearly stated he was not an employee. – Jonny Boats 12 years ago
  • There was no written contract and, in Australia, someone doing work experience is not considered to be an employee – Adenjones 12 years ago
  • Then there is no way the company can demand IP rights. In case the company writes you for rights, you can reply suitable as advised by hellothere. – Natwar Lath 12 years ago


Spend 10 minutes to create a new name, then spend a week re-writing a clean room version of the code. (It's a lot faster to write something a second time)

You will spend more time than that disputing ownership, arguing over who contributed ideas , resources etc without a proper resolution. Let them take what you left on their computer, and when the other organization realizes the maintainer has been forced to walk away from the code they will probably not use it for long.

answered Feb 20 '12 at 12:28
1,231 points


Re-writing it won't solve the problem that the company wants to gift this software to the client he is hoping to bill.

He needs to fight this if he wants to retain the rights.

answered Feb 21 '12 at 12:00
Bill Leeper
123 points


If there was no contract you signed, you weren't an employee then I can't honestly see how they can claim ownership of your work. Basically what they're suggesting is that without their equipment you wouldn't have been able to create the software which in itself unless you were doing some high-level stuff that could have only been done on their equipment, then I would fight it.

I'm not a lawyer my advice could be wrong, but in my experience they haven't got a leg to stand on here.

answered Mar 23 '12 at 08:15
Digital Sea
1,613 points

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