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jamesorwood's avatar

Personal projects competing with employers projects?

Asked by jamesorwood (6 points ) April 21st, 2010

Recently at my place of employment it was discovered that I was developing an outside personal project (personal project being a project I have been working on, in my spare time, for my own purposes, using my personal equipment).

My employer has an idea which is very similar to my outside project but has not been started, created, put out to market yet.

When I originally started working for the company I signed a non-compete contract.

My employer is now saying that because my outside/personal project is similar to theirs that I am now a competitor and breaching my original non-compete agreement.

What I would like to know is where do I stand in this situation?

Also my personal project has not been fully developed, nor is available to anyone other than myself.

So if we both don’t have full/released products (full meaning put out to the public) are we actually competitors?

There is going to be a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss this issue and would like to have a proper argument in place.

I know some of this conversation is best held with a lawyer but I don’t have the money to do that yet. I’m not looking for full legal advice just anyone who has maybe experienced this or can give any advice.

Thanks in advance!

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8 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

You don’t have a leg to stand on sorry. You are either going to be warned or let go.

jamesorwood's avatar

Is it possible that my employer could have a stance to “take” my project away from me?

trailsillustrated's avatar

probably not, but you are going to be warned in no uncertain terms and possibly let go. I’d get a lawyer if at all possible.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

You will have to defend that you have not used proprietary information or knowledge from your job to advance your personal project. That’s a tough one.

lilikoi's avatar

It was my impression that whatever you work on during company time, they own. Whatever you don’t, they don’t. What @PandoraBoxx said makes sense though. You need to bust out that non-compete contract and give it a good read through. What does it say?

jamesorwood's avatar

I’ve read and re-read the contract a few times and it basically says that anything done, came up with, etc for the company, resulted in work done for the company, or uses any of the companies equipment or confidential information belong to the company and I waive all my rights to them..

Which makes sense for anything I do for the company, but this was done on my own time, in my own house, using my own equipment.

I’m not sure where my idea spawned from originally, all I know is the idea was hatched middle of last year, I started working on it months after that, and the project has been stalled for a few months due to me being lazy.

The fun part is, at this time I’m not really looking to release it to anyone. Maybe down the road, but not right now.

I have signed up a few beta testers, but no release dates, or other information about the project has been released.

wildflower's avatar

You should consider the ins and outs of the contract you signed – you should also consider the spirit in which the agreement was intended and the fact that you have first hand, inside knowledge of what will be your competitor if you go ahead with your own project.
Even if you’ve not explicitly used any information provided by your employer, there may still be a question of intellectual property that you’ve been privileged to in your capacity as an employee.

Your best option is probably to find a way to co-exist – perhaps even shared ownership, or allow your employer to become a sponsor of your effort.

jamesorwood's avatar

@wildflower That’s a good suggestion, from a brief conversation with my boss the other day he was unsure of the exact outcome at that time and needed to talk with some higher ups about it before coming to a solution. But at that time he basically said there would only be 2 options, Don’t work for the company, or work for the company.

It didn’t seem like they wanted to steal my project, but we’ll see the outcome in the meeting.

My main goal is to try and please both sides, I don’t want to give up my project, but I don’t want to be without a job.

Does anyone think it’s possible to have an agreement that states my so called “product” won’t be released as a competing product while being employed by the employer?

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