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Author Topic: Can a company claim ownership of a book created outside of work?  (Read 1534 times)


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My company's IP policy is outlined below. It is an Illinois company, and I believe Illinois has a statute to protect employees from companies with overly broad IP policies -- however the language seems to apply to "inventions." I am wondering whether in either of the two following situations the company would have a legal claim to the copyright on a book?

1. An employee writes a book on his own time without any company resources. The book is unrelated to the employee's job.

2. An employee creates content for the company about topic x. The employee moves onto other content area for the company. On his own time and using his own resources, he does more work on topic x, which eventually leads to a book.

Given the policy below, could the company claim rights to either/both of the book projects above?

As part of your employment ..., you need to promptly disclose to Company management any inventions or other intellectual property that you create while you are employed by (the Company). If this occurs, you would also need to promptly assign this intellectual property to the Company or do anything else reasonably necessary to allow (the Company) to secure the appropriate patents, copyrights or other forms of legal protection. If you suspect any theft, misuse, or improper disclosure of the Company’s intellectual property, immediately tell your supervisor or someone from Human Resources, Internal Audit or the Law Department.

This policy is not intended to preclude or dissuade you from engaging in activities protected by state or federal law, including the National Labor Relations Act, such as discussing wages, benefits or terms and conditions of employment, including discussions regarding forming, joining or supporting labor unions, raising complaints about working conditions for your and your fellow employees’ mutual aid or protection or other legally protected activities


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specifics matter.

if you were a janitor, ... no a company cant claim ownership of that janitor's great American novel that was created on his or her own time or even if that janitor worked on that book during work period.

I the company hire a writer to cover a musician and gave that writer access and opportunity to produce literature for the company, ..... then it would have a great argument to own derivative of any work born from that venture. That writer would have a hard time arguing that a book on that musician was created independently of the efforts of the company.

always better to ba safe than sorry and ask an ip lawyer of your specific scenario.
Disclaimer: Not a lawyer


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I deal more with inventions than copyright questions, but using that standard #1 seems pretty clean and it would be hard for the company to try to claim it.  In several companies I've worked, the standard is the same - we just ask employees to disclose the general nature of outside inventions they want to patent so that we can make a record of it and a statement from legal that there is no conflict in their doing so (protects us because we get to vet the employee's judgment on what is/not "related" to the company's business; protects the inventor against later spurious claims).

#2 seems tougher for the writer to argue.  If I put it back in the context of inventions, if an employee develops for example an improvement to one of his prior inventions made for the company, even though s/he's now doing marketing instead of R&D, the company is likely to say the reason the employee has the skills and experience necessary to make this improvement are due to the resources provided when the employee was working R&D.  This is very similar to what Smokin says about access, opportunity, and follow-on or derivative works born of that access/opportunity.

By the way, I'm guessing your company does not really do much in the way of real R&D.  The portion of the policy you've provided is poorly written and also out-dated... that's their business, though, I suppose.


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