Contract employee and IP in a not so related business


If I create an application for a client and I am employed as a contactor to the client by a contracting firm in a different capacity, who owns the copyright?

Software Contract Copyright Intellectual Property

asked Feb 21 '13 at 02:32
Victor Clough
6 points
  • Read your contract. Did you do this during time you were working, or on your own time? Did you do this work on your own computer/infrastructure or on theirs? Contact an attorney. – Tim J 8 years ago

2 Answers


Relying on legal adivce here probably is not the best idea. You need to consult an attorney.

In addition to asking whether:

  • You made the software on company/client time;
  • You used company/client tools or equipment; and
  • The software is something related to your employment;

you will also be asked:

  • Whether you used any confidential information to develop or test the software.
This is not the typical IP employer ownership situatiuon because the software is already being used (on what basis? license?), and there are up to four potential claimants involved. Your employment contact--supposing it is enforceable as to the software--likely does not provide a clear answer here. On the other hand, your employer's contract with the client may contain an important provision. If this is valuable, you need to get effective representation and quickly.
answered Feb 21 '13 at 06:35
826 points
  • I edited my answer to mirror your revision of the question. You might want to save the details for your attorney. Please consider carefully. After a while some posts are permanent. – Yorick 8 years ago
  • Thanks. I deleted the details. I am seeking an attorney. If the client owns the copyright, I have no issue with that. I just want to provide the same solution to other companies, not the same exact code. – Victor Clough 8 years ago


You need to start by reviewing your employment agreement/contract and state law for both where you work and where the company is headquartered. And then check with a lawyer.

IANAL, but my first guess would be that ABC company owns the copyright. While it may not be in your job description to write software, you wrote it while employed by them and it appears that you are using it as part of your job for them. In effect, you took it upon yourself to make your job easier (and the job of your company) while in their employ. It all goes back to them.

If the airport is using it not in context of the work your company does, it could be even stickier. Your connection to the airport is because of your company, so that could create implied consent that you may have overstepped.

This could be a sticky issue, state and federal law is not always clear or in agreement. If you have real concerns about trying to maintain ownership, you need to talk to your management and a lawyer.

answered Feb 21 '13 at 04:23
Cdk Moose
429 points

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