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Intellectual Property Agreements

Postby JLeather » Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:32 am

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So, as with any budding inventor I do have a day job. As a mechanical engineer I naturally found work with a mechanical engineering company, in my case Raytheon. The work I do is mostly analytical (safety engineering, spares, etc, etc) with very little design. The design work I do for them is usually a small part of a large, mostly electrical system (casings and things of that nature). I have had many ideas in my spare time both before and since employment, completely unassociated with my work. However, I did have to sign an "intellectual property" agreement when i started work there. It is phrased that any ideas I have which "arise from my work here, or are reasonably within the business interests of the company" belong to them. I am curious to whether or not they could make a case if I have a profitable idea for a new automotive tool, or a child's game being that they are a defense company. I have a copy of the form I signed and would like it to be looked over by someone familiar with such a thing. I like my job, and I would like to be able to invent products free from fear of litigation from my own company.

Postby tony.fulford » Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:54 am

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You should discuss this with your Intellectual Property Counsel at Raytheon. You can get a direct reading from them and there will be no doubt about their position.

Postby makeworldbetter » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:14 am

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Location: Silicon Valley
Just read your agreement one more time, to make sure it is what it is.
If your idea is not work related. The general rule says you are safe.
I also keep an inventor log book that can prove that all my ideas are forming at my spare time (not at work). At least I log them at my spare time since I keep it at home. :roll:

Counsel lawyers and they will tell you pretty much the same thing except they will go through the every fine prints more detail than you and I. If you can do the same, you are fine. The most important thing what a lawyer tell you is just an valid opinion, not a guarantee. You can always use your own judgment to do the same.

Postby JLeather » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:36 am

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The agreement was relatively short, no real "fine print". I can post the section(s) that actually matter after the opening boilerplate. I was/am a little worried about asking the company about it. Seems similar to asking the IRS about a tax loophole. Might lead to scrutiny, etc. We do have a legal "hotline" or something I might call. Maybe there are some patent attorneys around here I could get some advice from on this one. I do plan to keep a solid logbook of inventing, and I will certainly make sure I don't use any company property doing this (or company time). Since they're a defense company I *hope* I can just stay under the radar on this one and then it won't be an issue. Don't really expect them to be checking out patents on car tools...