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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> What are my rights in this situation??
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11/25/2010 11:33:50 AM · #1
DPC imho has some of the most intelligent and knowledgeable people and I ask for input in to my current situation. In my position as an hourly employee I have written a stand alone web application to make the job of the Customer Service Reps easier and also provides for other benefits to the company as a result of tighter control of sensitive personal health information. I did this not as part of my job description by any stretch... I just like programming and it was a fun project. It has now caught the attention of leadership and they may want everyone to use it or possibly take the ideas and put it into their own program that they will write. what should I do to protect my rights to the program and the ideas behind it if indeed I have any of the rights at all anyway. I did write most of it on their time at work. I did work on it some when off of the clock though.
11/25/2010 11:41:52 AM · #2
I'm no expert but I think that if you did it on their time, it may belong to your employer to use or even SELL. However, that is just what my limited info tells me. This may vary state by state.

You may have been able to tell them that you did it at home and then sold it to them. If this is the case, delete your post on DPC !

Good Luck.

Message edited by author 2010-11-25 11:44:17.
11/25/2010 11:42:13 AM · #3
Oh, that's tough. I'm not a lawyer, and probably that would be the right person with whom to consult. The issue will be (as I see it), that in fact you did develop a portion of it on their time.

But I always try to opt for the high road. Maybe approach the powers that be and say you're flattered that they find the software you designed so helpful, and is there any way you can help implement it and perhaps further develop it. At a minimum, it would imply ownership and that you are aware it is being used. Maybe also you could say you were developing for potential sale on the market, which would also imply that you want to get paid.
11/25/2010 11:47:01 AM · #4
In general, regardless of your job description, if you worked on any of it while you were on the clock, using their equipment, they own it, lock stock and barrel. Sorry.

As an engineer, anything I create that is patentable, will have my name on the patent, however, all rights to the patent belong to my employer. The only way I can claim otherwise is to document that 1) the development was done completely during my own time and 2) I did not use ANY of their equipment/facilities or other resources to develop it and 3) that the patent is not an extension of my work as an employee. I would then also have to navigate and pay for the patent process myself.

I would expect that your employer has a similar policy
11/25/2010 12:34:05 PM · #5
If you did it in company time using company facilities ( i.e. pc and software ) then it is the companies- end of.

However that is not completely the end of the story . . . as it is a useful showcase of your talents ( if you play it right - and graciously ) and a chance for you to suggest that maybe there is more in the development area that you could assist them with - and it is still something that you can put on your c.v. as ' having developed a programme that was rolled out across the company saving $X thousand dollars . .

Rather than fight over this embrace it and suggest future enhancements - use it to make yourself more valuable to the company.

Only other thought is does your company have a suggestions scheme this could be entered into ?

11/25/2010 12:43:10 PM · #6
I am with Dan on this.
My workplace agreement actually has it spellt out pretty clearly. Any thought, idea, program, document, invention etc etc that I develop, if done in any way during work time or on works resources, or in any way related to work, is owned by work for their exclusive use to do what they want with it, including patent it, sell it, licence its use or market it to another company. It is theirs.
I emphasis that 'in any way related to work', therefore if I did it on my time, on my resources, they still have some claim over it (which would make an interesting legal case). Therefore my brilliant idea of a personnel, intercontinental, hypersonic transport system, unfortunately, is now owned by them.............

Even if you developed this at home, under MY workplace agreement, it would be owned by work........yours may be different though as I am a permanent employee, and you are paid by the hour.....I don't think they could restrict you in the same way.

I would approach them, tell them that you are flattered, emphasize that you spent some of YOUR time developing this (no need to lie). I would expect at a minimum, they would compensate you for the hours of your time you spent on it (only fair), and would keep you on working cause obviously you are an asset to the company.

But in terms of ownership, I don't think you have any.......
11/25/2010 08:06:09 PM · #7
Thanks for the input... kinda what I thought. I have a meeting with some IT people in a couple of weeks. I'll be sure and let you all know how this goes down. They are bound to give me something if they use my work I would think. The call center director of operations was very impressed. It has already saved one persons job. Guy was really struggling until they allowed me to install my program on his computer. His performance rating went from 78% to 98% accuracy within a week.
11/25/2010 08:17:57 PM · #8
Originally posted by dponlyme:

Thanks for the input... kinda what I thought. I have a meeting with some IT people in a couple of weeks. I'll be sure and let you all know how this goes down. They are bound to give me something if they use my work I would think. The call center director of operations was very impressed. It has already saved one persons job. Guy was really struggling until they allowed me to install my program on his computer. His performance rating went from 78% to 98% accuracy within a week.


I think your best bet is to use your accomplishment as leverage to move into a position where that kind of work IS part of your job description.
11/25/2010 08:38:09 PM · #9
The question is.... Why did you write the program?
Was the purpose of writing it to eventually sell it to your employer?

If so, it's considered as personal work, which shouldn't have been done during the hours your employer pays you to do their work.

If not, then you shouldn't have a problem with them using your program; you should be flattered that your program is good enough to be used in the way you had originally intended.

If your employer, on the other hand, suggests they will be selling your idea, then I suggest you make your program open source.
I'm a big advocate for open source applications.. So I'd say do that anyway.
11/25/2010 08:44:00 PM · #10
Originally posted by Spork99:

I think your best bet is to use your accomplishment as leverage to move into a position where that kind of work IS part of your job description.


Bingo.
11/25/2010 08:50:08 PM · #11
let me look into but i think most here are wrong and you have some legitimate rights. i just read an article about this. i'll get back to you when i can track down where i read it at.

edit, i cant for the life of me remember where i read it, but first: consult a lawyer, we can only offer what we think is law.

now, i remember reading if writing code is NOT PART of your job description, the company does NOT OWN the copyright to the code, you do. Just like if you took a photograph while on the job, if photography is not in your job description, YOU OWN the copyright. It doesn't matter if you used their machines, and their time time. They didn't specifically hire you or instruct you to write the software.

For all they know you wrote the code at home and brought it in.

I would try to use it as leverage for a raise or promotion, or tell them that you wrote the code and would be happy to license it to them. Its up to you how you want to play it and what level you want to take it to.

Message edited by author 2010-11-25 21:12:07.
11/25/2010 10:38:08 PM · #12
...Best bet, consult a lawyer familiar with the issue of "Intellectual Property"

Free advise is worth exactly what you paid for it.

Ray
11/25/2010 11:00:02 PM · #13
Consulting FindLaw produced This

This article from an IP attorney says pretty much the same thing.

From the ASME website

I suggest you review the agreements you signed when you became an employee. Many employers have employees sign a written agreement specifying the ownership of employee inventions. If yours didn't, as the linked article suggests, the situation becomes less clear. From the situation you have described, and in the absence of a written agreement, I'd say that your situation falls under the "shop right rule" where your employer assigns your name to the legal ownership, but retains "a nonexclusive license to use, manufacture and sell an invention without financial obligation to the inventor."

You can and should consult a lawyer, but you have to consider what it's worth to you if your employer disagrees with your claim. Are you willing to take your employer to court over this? Is it worth it? You could wind up losing and on the hook for an extensive legal bill, even if you have a good case. You might also wind up working for an employer who will be searching for an excuse to terminate a troublemaker.

I still think that your best course of action, regardless of your legal rights, would be to take this as an opportunity to show management that your time is better spent programming and not doing what you are now. Hopefully with an appropriate increase in compensation.

Message edited by author 2010-11-25 23:07:22.
11/26/2010 08:47:03 AM · #14
Originally posted by mike_311:

let me look into but i think most here are wrong and you have some legitimate rights. i just read an article about this. i'll get back to you when i can track down where i read it at.

edit, i cant for the life of me remember where i read it, but first: consult a lawyer, we can only offer what we think is law.

now, i remember reading if writing code is NOT PART of your job description, the company does NOT OWN the copyright to the code, you do. Just like if you took a photograph while on the job, if photography is not in your job description, YOU OWN the copyright. It doesn't matter if you used their machines, and their time time. They didn't specifically hire you or instruct you to write the software.

For all they know you wrote the code at home and brought it in.

I would try to use it as leverage for a raise or promotion, or tell them that you wrote the code and would be happy to license it to them. Its up to you how you want to play it and what level you want to take it to.

You have to be careful how you play this. You are not in a position to bargain if you did this on company time. They have the power to fire you, regardless if what they fire you for is valid or not. That will make your life difficult, and if they decide to make a hobby of it, you'll go broke during the legal battle trying to get your job back.......not to mention the adverse environment you'll be exposed to if they're forced to re-hire you.

If what you did was not within the parameters of your job, and if you were being paid, you were NOT doing your job. That's not good, or ethical, if you want to get right down to it.

Tread lightly, and approach this as if you're doing all this for the good and betterment of the company. That will make a better impression than trying to capitalize on your idea now. Then don't make this same mistake in the future. Thinking that you can salvage this after the fact, honestly, is kind of short-sighted.
11/26/2010 10:06:57 AM · #15
Originally posted by NikonJeb:


...Tread lightly, and approach this as if you're doing all this for the good and betterment of the company. That will make a better impression than trying to capitalize on your idea now. Then don't make this same mistake in the future. Thinking that you can salvage this after the fact, honestly, is kind of short-sighted.


I'd have to assume that he *did* do it for the betterment of the company, and I agree, tread lightly. I disagree that he made any kind of mistake. Taking initiative, taking ownership and showing success, even where not part of one's direct responsibility, is how one shows their value in an organization. The trick is, getting the promotion/compensation that goes with that kind of performance.
11/26/2010 10:21:09 AM · #16
Originally posted by kirbic:

Originally posted by NikonJeb:


...Tread lightly, and approach this as if you're doing all this for the good and betterment of the company. That will make a better impression than trying to capitalize on your idea now. Then don't make this same mistake in the future. Thinking that you can salvage this after the fact, honestly, is kind of short-sighted.


I'd have to assume that he *did* do it for the betterment of the company, and I agree, tread lightly. I disagree that he made any kind of mistake. Taking initiative, taking ownership and showing success, even where not part of one's direct responsibility, is how one shows their value in an organization. The trick is, getting the promotion/compensation that goes with that kind of performance.


+1

Whatever the contract does or doesn't say, sitting in front of your bosses starting a debate about the IP of some code they're interested in using probably isn't in the best interests of your career.

But whatever you do, don't even think about withholding it from them. That would be a disaster.
11/26/2010 10:31:30 AM · #17
Originally posted by kirbic:

Taking initiative, taking ownership and showing success, even where not part of one's direct responsibility, is how one shows their value in an organization. The trick is, getting the promotion/compensation that goes with that kind of performance.


Unless of course you're in a union, in which case that behavior is frowned upon (by the union anyway).
11/26/2010 10:38:14 AM · #18
What are your rights? Well you have the right to acquire an attorney (a good IP attorney). Anything other than that is just speculation on our part.

I would definitely go ahead an register the program with the copyright office.
11/26/2010 10:55:25 AM · #19
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

I would definitely go ahead an register the program with the copyright office.

Not sure that'd be a good idea if it was done on company time on a company machine....

Message edited by author 2010-11-26 11:02:04.
11/26/2010 11:01:37 AM · #20
Originally posted by NikonJeb:

...Tread lightly, and approach this as if you're doing all this for the good and betterment of the company. That will make a better impression than trying to capitalize on your idea now. Then don't make this same mistake in the future. Thinking that you can salvage this after the fact, honestly, is kind of short-sighted.

Originally posted by kirbic:

I'd have to assume that he *did* do it for the betterment of the company, and I agree, tread lightly.

That's a given, but IMNSHO, it's a good idea to point that out.....diplomatically, of course.
Originally posted by kirbic:

I disagree that he made any kind of mistake.

From the standpoint of his second thoughts having already given the information to the company, and now wanting to capitalize on it he did.
Originally posted by kirbic:

Taking initiative, taking ownership and showing success, even where not part of one's direct responsibility, is how one shows their value in an organization.

Ideally, yes, but as ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/31.gif', '/') + 1) . ' photodude pointed out, there can be situations where it's not necessarily adbvantageous.
Originally posted by kirbic:

The trick is, getting the promotion/compensation that goes with that kind of performance.

Amen to that! LOL!!!
11/26/2010 11:58:10 AM · #21
Originally posted by dponlyme:

I have any of the rights at all anyway. I did write most of it on their time at work. I did work on it some when off of the clock though.


Lots of good advice I've seen in the responses. One thing I didn't see: recognition. As said before; treading lightly, document any written recognition you may receive from your employer. You know, slap on the back letters, glowing reports on how your work output helped the company out of a really tight spot, etc. Because...... you probably won't work for this company the rest of your life. Make sure you've got this valuable sales material to use when you're selling yourself to the next employer/customer.
11/26/2010 03:22:58 PM · #22
Originally posted by dponlyme:

Thanks for the input... kinda what I thought. I have a meeting with some IT people in a couple of weeks. I'll be sure and let you all know how this goes down. They are bound to give me something if they use my work I would think. The call center director of operations was very impressed. It has already saved one persons job. Guy was really struggling until they allowed me to install my program on his computer. His performance rating went from 78% to 98% accuracy within a week.


If anything, you'll be more known in your company. I did the same thing many moons ago and it helped me in my job.

I hope the same goes for you. Hopefully you'll be know for taking the initiative to help the company. Otherwise, the company is a bunch of boneheads and you'll have to start looking for another job.

It would look good on your resume tho. "Took the initiative and create a web application to make the job of the Customer Service to increase tighter control of sensitive personal health information. This program increase productivity from 78% accuracy to 98%. Saved the company $XXX per hour."

11/26/2010 08:14:49 PM · #23
Take this as an opportunity to build goodwill and improve upon your perceived value to the company.

Considering that you
- wrote it while being paid for that time by the company
- wrote it (presumably) using company-supplied hardware and software
- installed it on company equipment.

Taking any stance other than "I'm honored that you would want to use this." would be detrimental to ongoing employment.

Unless you are a contractor and have specifically spelled out the ownership of software developed to assist you in the job, I don't see any way that trying to assert ownership rights would be in your best interests.
11/26/2010 08:59:59 PM · #24
Originally posted by NikonJeb:

Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

I would definitely go ahead an register the program with the copyright office.

Not sure that'd be a good idea if it was done on company time on a company machine....


There seems to never have been a work for hire agreement...sooooo... it couldn't hurt...
Retaining ones job could be a compromise in a copyright release.
11/26/2010 10:28:10 PM · #25
i used to work for/with some guys that built some software for the company they worked for, but then used what they learned to build another program in their off time. the second program solved lots of problems in the original program, became a commercial success, and became the cornerstone of a business that they sold for a few million a number of years later. they kept their day job with the original company until the company they started in their off-time got traction.

their boss tried to argue that the company owned the second program, but realized that it was different enough and had nothing to do with their daily work...

just something to think about...
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