Me, Myself & I(P)

Intellectual Property that is, I was recently discussing IP with someone because their employer was offering a “creative maker space” for the employees of that company to encourage creativity and teamwork in and outside of the company and provide the opportunity to partake in equipment and resources that the average individual would not necessarily have available. From VR set ups, lathes, plasma cutters, industrial size 3D printers, to designated employees that are there to help you with CAD or do the drafting for you. All in all, it sounds like a great resource for the employees of that company, they can come into the shop, build whatever they want, whether it be related to a specific product in the company, or work on something that they want to (some hobbies include rockets, RC cars, etc)

What had me thinking though, was as we discussed this we started talking about IP and what that meant to the employee. Granted, it makes total sense that if the employer is providing a location, equipment, and materials for the low cost of your employment, that anything you would be creating at the maker space, would definitely fall under the ownership of the employer. However, what stood out to me was that when we were talking about it, my friend mentioned that for this company (and I’m sure it there are many companies that do likewise) have in the employee agreement policy, that anything created, on and off the campus and time of work, belongs to the company.

Another friend I have who used to work at Apple said that he too had to sign this same type of agreement, a non compete but also non-moonlighting/personal project killer contract. I understand and agree that if you are on company time, property (using their computers etc) or your idea was spurred on by something that happened at work or a different spin off of the product, that most likely this would fall under the category of your employers IP as well as bad practice on your behalf. However, I think it adds to the ball and chain lifestyle of corporate America if no matter what you create (in hopes to sell etc) can be taken away from you in a blink of an eye just because you happened to be employed by a company that stretched its IP nets far and wide.