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Worrying About Employment Contracts? 98

Posted by Cliff
from the read-before-you-sign dept.
An anonymous reader wonders: "I was preparing to accept a software developer job at a California company and was put off by the contract which claimed ownership of any ideas I create (on my own time or at the company) during my stay at the company and required me to inform them of any ideas (related to the company or not) during my employment and for a year afterwards. I've found references to a couple of instances where this became a legal problem for the developer. Is this something to worry about?"
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Worrying About Employment Contracts?

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  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:39PM (#18904647)
    If you don't like to have your ideas pwned by some corporation, ask them to take the offending lines out of the contract. If they refuse, look for a different job.
    • by savala (874118) on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:48PM (#18904825)
      Don't "ask them". Do it yourself (strike out the offending lines, maybe write in a new clause: initial those changes, and have them initial them as well). By offering you a contract, they have all the power. Treat their proposed text as a starting point, and give yourself back some of that power. You already know they want to hire you: this puts you on equal footing. Use that knowledge. It's in both your interests to come to a agreement that you're both happy with, and a contract is a great tool for that purpose.
      • by marcus (1916) on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:06PM (#18905171) Journal
        I was once handed a contract with a particularly abusive set of IP stipulations. Basically I swapped out all the references to employee and employer so that it said I would own the IP of all inventions of the company whether or not they were invented while I was at work, etc. and handed it back. He didn't flinch. He just looked at me sort of funny and took out the whole paragraph.

        Ended up not working for that company, but that was because I'd gotten a better offer elsewhere.

    • by onion2k (203094) on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:27PM (#18905521) Homepage
      No, no, no. If they refuse to remove the clause you should still accept the job, and then proceed to do what the contract states: "inform them of any ideas (related to the company or not)". Every single one. Written up in company time with a full explanation. They can have your idea for a hover toilet, or pajamas for sheep*, or a hyperdimensional toothbrush, or .. well you get the idea. Well, they do. I doubt you'd get much work done though.

      The best bit is that even if they fire you for doing no real work, you can still bill them for a year afterwards. After all, a contract that requires you to work on their behalf wouldn't be fair if they didn't pay you for your time.

      * This one probably exists already. Sorry boss!
    • If I were a corporate HR department, using national corporate HR databases, and some no-good two-bit just-graduated self-important POS new hire dared to think that they could make any changes to our obviously superior employment agreement...

      Then I would enter them into the national corporate HR databases as a p3d0phile. If they don't want to be our slave then we'll see how they like living without a paycheck at all. Maybe we'll see how much they like eating their college degree while they're slaving away
  • Yes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:43PM (#18904743)
    Carefully strike through the offending lines, initial them, and hand the contract like that back to the company. Now the ball is in their court. They can see what they (their lawyers) were asking is unreasonable, and initial the changes as well, or they can get back to you. Then negotiation starts. But whatever you do, don't just blithely sign it and think "oh, that'd never be a problem anyway". The very purpose of contracts existing is to make certain that things won't become problems.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:57PM (#18905013) Homepage
      CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE SECTION 2870
      INVENTION ON OWN TIME - EXEMPTION FROM AGREEMENT

      (a) Any provision in an employment agreement which provides that an employee
      shall assign, or offer to assign, any of employee's rights in an invention to employee's employer shall
      not apply to an invention that the employee developed entirely on employee's own time without
      using the employer's equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information except for those
      inventions that either:

      (1) Relate at the time of conception or reduction to practice of the invention to
      the employer's business, or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the
      employer; or
      (2) Result from any work performed by the employee for the employer.

      (b) To the extent a provision in an employment agreement purports to require an
      employee to assign an invention otherwise excluded from being required to be assigned under
      subdivision (a), the provision is against the public policy of this state and is unenforceable.
      • by Matt Perry (793115) <perry.matt54@ya h o o.com> on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:13PM (#18905301)
        Thanks, but in the future please provide a link to the official source. Here's the relevant text from the California legislative information web site [ca.gov]. There's a bit more text than what you've posted. This is from the CA labor code [ca.gov].
        • by nazsco (695026)
          > > CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE SECTION 2870
          > Thanks, but in the future please provide a link to the official source.

          So, you can only read hyper-links nowadays?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Matt Perry (793115)

            So, you can only read hyper-links nowadays?

            I can read text just fine but that doesn't mean that the text I'm reading is accurate or complete. Searching for "california labor code section 2870" returns a lot of results with the link to the official text several results from the top. A lot of the pages in the top of the results only show part of the section in question or paraphrase it. Although it's great that FooAtWFU's comment is getting modded up a citation would have helped an interested party to inve

            • by orasio (188021)

              Although it's great that FooAtWFU's comment is getting modded up a citation would have helped an interested party to investigate further. Since Slashdot's comments are archived it's likely that this article will come up in someone's search results in the future. It would be best to give them as complete a picture as possible so they don't submit the same question to Slashdot in the future looking for more information.

              If FooAtWFU doesn't like my advice he's free to ignore it.

              But his citation _is_ better than yours. specially
              Provided that the discussion is archived, "CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE SECTION 2870" is much better than an hyperlink, because websites, and domains change at a faster rate than law.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Cyberax (705495)
      I also suggest BOFH method: "No, mine was sent as an electronic document, so I just cut out the clauses I didn't like, added a couple of my own, printed two copies and signed them. Then your guy signed them too - probably without checking. Or maybe he liked the idea of clause F.3 that I'm allowed to call Managers... 'knobface'."

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/07/29/bofh_2004_ episode_24/ [theregister.co.uk]
    • If a company is confident enough to begin the employer-employee relationship with such a draconian employment contract then what could possibly lead you to think that they will accept any amendment of that document?

      I tried amending the document with my first employer. The HR rep looked at me, laughed, and said,"Oh, that's our standard contract. You can't make any changes. Everyone has to sign it." This was, of course, on the first day of the job--after relocating and moving into the new apartment.
      • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by xero314 (722674) on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:47PM (#18905867)

        This was, of course, on the first day of the job--after relocating and moving into the new apartment.
        I always ask to see the employment contracts before accepting an offer, and everyone else should as well. This has saved me from working for a couple companies who had contracts I didn't agree with. I even had one company change their mind on an offer because I asked to see the document I was agreeing too (there was a line in an agreement that said I agreed to some other document and they would not show me the other document). You can make changes to the agreement as other people suggested, but these agreements are usually reflections on how the company operates and if you don't like there agreements you probably won't like the company.
        • DO NOT give up the rights to what you do on your own time, unless it is in direct conflict with your duties or uses proprietary information you received in the course of your duties.
        • DO NOT agree to arbitration and losing your legal rights.
        • DO NOT agree to any terms that will effect you after the employer has stopped compensating you for your time.
        • You've never had to face the option of becoming homeless to stand up for your pretty rhetoric.

          Try coming down from your mountain and then we'll see how tough you talk.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by NormalVisual (565491)
            You've never had to face the option of becoming homeless to stand up for your pretty rhetoric.

            It's not just "pretty rhetoric" when you're talking about an agreement that can legally bind you to something that could cost you a *lot* of money and remove any real legal recourse. I truly mean no offense or disrespect, but it's foolish to relocate for a job without knowing exactly what the terms of the contract are - I've known plenty of H1B's that have gotten snared by that, incidentally. If a potential e
            • Real HR departments trash your reputation if you won't submit to their every demand. Don't look for a defamation, libel, or slander lawsuit though--it's all kept under the table and disguised in various color coded database fields.

              The original assertion still stands: You've never had to face homelessness to stand up for your pretty rhetoric.
              • by Wolfrider (856)
                I call bullshit. You can have a friend call up a former employer to test their HR system for defamation, etc. Record the conversation. If they trash your rep over the phone, you can sue the hell out of them.

                Employers are not allowed to give out potentially character-damaging info; they can only confirm period (dates) of employment.
                • by Sparr0 (451780)
                  Actually, they can give out any true facts, barring a confidentiality agreement. What they can't give out is opinions. Most HR departments have a policy in place to only give out employment dates because that is "safe", but many go farther. In the sales business I have encountered HR depts that will disclose performance information and such.
      • by Sparr0 (451780)
        Assuming you live in a state with a small claims court, you would almost certainly be eligible for reimbursement for the relocation (I will assume you only spend a few thousand dollars) if you didn't get to see the contract after being given the job and before moving, particularly if any of the clauses in question were "unconscionable" in the judge's opinion (which this sort almost always are).
    • First of all, no, you certainly shouldn't sign a contract explicitly giving your rights to your employer if you're not happy with that — and why would you be, if they're not paying you compensation for them?

      But just striking through the text and sending it back is naive. The default position on intellectual property in employer-employee relationships differs significantly with jurisdiction. In the absence of an explicit agreement, they can argue things about salary and not having fixed working hours

    • Be careful though with the striking trough. It can get you in a lot of trouble [worsethanfailure.com] [TheDailyWTF]
    • by Kuvter (882697)
      I was going to say make your own version, submit it, and see if they accept it. However a strike through on their version saves you time and I think is more of a statement about their policy than making your own.
  • Sounds normal to me. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by LordNimon (85072)
    which claimed ownership of any ideas I create (on my own time or at the company) during my stay at the company and required me to inform them of any ideas (related to the company or not) during my employment and for a year afterwards.

    Well, the "one year afterwards part" is a bit odd, but the rest looks like any normal employee agreement for a software job. I would just try to get that "one year afterwards" thing removed.
    • It could also be construed as restricting where he could work in the future if a future employer has a similar contract, he couldn't/shouldn't sign the new employers contract since it conflicts with his agreement in the previous contract. Which means he could be out of work for year while he waits for the first contract to expire.
      • It also is the real killer for this contract.

        A new employer is certain to have confidentiality clauses that prevent him from telling people about ideas related to his new job.

        There is no way I would sign this, unless they agree to compensate him for the year before he can take another job. Even in then I would be reluctant.
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:02PM (#18905113)
      No its not. ANything done on company time and/or with company resources is normal. Things closely relating to the company done on off hours is normal (for example, writing a plugin for a piece of software your company makes). Off hours work not relating to company buisness belonging to the company is *NOT* normal. NEVER sign a contract like that.

      As an aside- I don't think such a contract is legal in California, the state actually has worker protection laws for stuff like this.
    • by brunascle (994197)
      i think you missed the on my own time or at the company part. that means no personal websites, no free software, no art... nothing. everything you make belongs to your employer.
    • by radarjd (931774)
      Well, the "one year afterwards part" is a bit odd, but the rest looks like any normal employee agreement for a software job. I would just try to get that "one year afterwards" thing removed.

      The requirement to inform your employer of patents for one year afterwards can protect both you and them. For example, let's say you file for a patent six months after you left work. You didn't do any of the work for it during your tenure at the company but it does relate to something the company does. Three or four y

    • by bahwi (43111)
      Scratch the whole thing out, if they won't, ask to have their lawyer put in that you'll get paid full salary until that clause (and any further ones) expire. If they don't like it, they should be more willing to take out the whole thing. If not, then it's a bad job unless you are willing to accept that, and yes, it does limit new jobs, very much so. So it better be enough money to accept that job.
  • Scratch it out. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:48PM (#18904821) Homepage
    Just scratch it out before signing and when you turn it in, say, "Hey, fyi, I scratched out these lines. Please tell me if that's a problem or we need to discuss it further." Nine times out of ten its a form contract and an item on a checklist. The employer doesn't care that you scratched out the lines. Did he sign the contract? Check. Next?

    The tenth time you'll have to choose whether or not to walk away. As someone who has walked away, let me tell you: its a tough choice. Its also the right choice. There are plenty of jobs for a smart developer and plenty of companies who won't try to walk over you that way.
  • Evan Brown (Score:4, Informative)

    by eric76 (679787) on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:48PM (#18904829)

    Evan Brown [unixguru.com] ran into this problem.

    He lost his job and spent quite a while in court fighting it.

    His contract used the word "inventions" instead of "idea" but they interpreted "invention" to include just about anything.

    • by Otter (3800)
      That story was linked here when it happened. (I remember the nerd in the cowboy hat.) My recollection was that the employer's version of events was very different from his and that the judge agreed with the employer. Brown's writing doesn't exactly dispel the perception that he's a nut.

      That said, the lesson is still worth learning. If you're not asking for anything unreasonable, don't be shy about adding it to the contract, and certainly don't sign anything you're uncomfortable with.

      • by eric76 (679787)
        I probably first met Evan in about 1973 or 1974 and used to see him around regulary until about 1980.

        He's no nut.
  • You should regard ideas you come up with at work and related to your work as their property, since they paid you. Anything else is yours alone. But at the end of the day I won't worry too much about it - these types of contract terms have ruled unenforceable time and again by the courts. And pin-pointing the actual genius of an idea (the burden would be on the plaintiff) would probably be extremely difficult.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      > these types of contract terms have ruled unenforceable time and again by the courts

      This is said frequently. But I'm yet to see any kind of confirmation.

      • by bahwi (43111)
        Noncompetes are typically ruled to be only partially enforceable is what they mean. This is slashdot, I'm surprised it hasn't been taken to the extreme context of "you'll get $100,000 if you quit then sue". IP rights are typically enforceable from what I've read and seen. I've also found companies are very willing to negotiate.
  • Unless you've got a really weird contract where you work 24x7 and you're simply not allowed to have independent ideas at all, the advice I was given about a similar clause should apply: if you have an idea that you don't want to include in your contract, do not develop it at work in any way. Write it down on a PDA. Develop the software at home. Do everything you can to avoid thinking about it at work, because if you're being paid, it's their idea.

    It's probably not as enforceable as the really ominous wordin
  • by aldheorte (162967)
    Yes, this is something with which to be concerned. This is the intellectual property clause. Although, fairly standard, never accept a contract that does not limit the scope of owned property by the employing party to only code or documentation created on their time and/or their machines and/or their network. Anything else you think of or do is your own and they not need to be notified.

    Since they clearly want you, make them change that. You have power now. When you sign, you give it up.

    Also, make sure to ch
  • Legal documents are rarely, if ever, used the way they were originally advertised. Look to coverage of DMCA and Patriot enforcement for prime examples.

    The contract that you describe is common practice in most professional industries. I've received the impression that this hasn't been the case in computer science until recently. It is only going to become worse. These documents are part of the "it's my way or the highway" approach that corporations use to strong-arm prospective employees--there's no secr
  • by kiwimate (458274) on Friday April 27, 2007 @02:55PM (#18904993) Journal
    Also check out [slashdot.org] previous [slashdot.org] Ask Slashdot [slashdot.org] articles [slashdot.org]. No, not identical to what you're asking, but still some good points.
  • by Drexus (826859)
    This sort of tactic ensures that the company will own sole rights to everything you create or don't create. If the idea is there, then they own it. Essentially, anything you make that represents you as a creative programer will be owned by them. They love this - especially if you are a seasoned programmer with years full of tricks and tools that you keep by your side. It's a method of extracting everything that you are and giving it to them for the privilege of a paycheque. We have this same problem with de
  • Yes and no. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:07PM (#18905197) Homepage Journal
    No, it's not "something to worry about", in the sense of looking out for it. There's just no point. Almost all contracts and employment agreements will have such a clause. There's also usually the authority to terminate employment for no reason, which is a great get-out clause for companies that want to violate employment laws. In fact, typical employment contracts give you no rights, no protections and no stability. Your bosses can do what they like and there is nothing you can do about it, even when the law technically says otherwise. There is just no point worrying about conditions you will simply have to accept if you want to continue eating.

    Yes, it's something to worry about, in the sense that nobody has any incentive to invent. The employees won't see a dime, if their bright ideas have to be handed over without question. Companies have no incentive, because they should be able to get just as good results for free. Besides, if they ask their new hires to innovate, the new hires will have to give all this neat new stuff to their former boss, not them. R&D has no value, when it is in nobody's interest to carry it out. In their pursuit of instant gratification and the "now" money, the people with business degrees are killing off the people with real knowledge. There is no long-term future for such a mindset. It consumes but never produces. In the end, it will starve itself and all around it to death. Those just graduating damn well should worry that there is a serious danger of there being no long-term future. Not just for a job, but for whole industries.

    • Extremely well put.

      My personal addition is this: I agree with your statements and, rather than just stating them, I've followed through on them. I'm homeless because "The Man" doesn't like it when an employee demands proper share. In fact, "The Man" becomes downright vindictive--and not just on a three month or one job scale. "The Man" will work to ensure that your reputation is trashed and that you're carefully strung out (harassed, harangued, hounded, and frustrated) until you crack slowly in ways tha
      • At many key points in history, refugees from the "old system" founded their own, alternative system, from the communities through to the industries needed to maintain them. At one extreme, Cambridge University and the city of Cambridge were founded by students who had escaped being murdered in Oxford by a lynch mob bent on street justice. At the other extreme, the Amish escaped psychotic religious extremism in Europe, fled to the US, and have virtually isolated themselves in their communities - what they ne
      • I'm homeless because "The Man" doesn't like it when an employee demands proper share.

        Then don't work for "The Man". Look for smaller companies, or even bigger companies with a more rational approach. Or work for yourself, even if that means changing fields.

        I figure I'm not going to last long at a job working for "The Man" anyway, so I might as well turn down a job that asks me to sign away my dignity before I even start.

        The last time I encountered one of these clauses was for a contract position at

  • Go ahead (Score:2, Funny)

    by ATestR (1060586)
    Sure, go ahead and sign their contact. Then, be sure to weekly advise your new employer about a great new idea you have for [[anti-gravity device],[perpetual motion machine],[modern day Kama Sutra], ...].
  • California law (Score:3, Informative)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday April 27, 2007 @03:14PM (#18905325) Homepage

    If it's a California-based company, the relevant law is California Labor Code 2870-2872 [ca.gov]. Those sections put limits on the extent to which that IP agreement is legal. Any attempt by the agreement to exceed those limits is illegal and void as a matter of law according to 2870(b). The employer is also required to give you, in writing per 2872, a notice that any language in the agreement does not apply to inventions which meet 2870's criteria.

    California Business and Professional Code section 16600 [ca.gov] is also relevant to the oh-so-common non-compete clauses.

    Note that California's position is that, since these are law, the fact that an employee agreed to them does not provide an out for the employer. Just to be safe, however, when I had to sign those papers I wrote in a term saying that the agreement was subject to the limitations of those two laws before I signed.

    • Re:California law (Score:4, Interesting)

      by queequeg1 (180099) on Friday April 27, 2007 @04:04PM (#18906117)
      Before relying on this CA Code section (which, by the way, is pretty awesome for your purposes if it applies), you should check the contract for a governing law provision. Typically near the end of the contract with a bunch of other boilerplate provisions, the governing law provision might specify a state other than CA (especially if the employer is a larger national company with central headquarters located in a different state). If the contract specifies a different state, the employer may use an enforcement strategy that could possibly negate the benefits offered by this code section. Specifically, the employer could bring a claim in the courts of that other state, get a judgment, and then have the judgment enforced in CA (based on the full faith and credit provisions of the US Constitution). I don't believe this issue has been tested in court yet. If you become the test case, you've already lost (because the issue will cost huge dollars to litigate).

      If there is no governing law provision in the contract, the foregoing problem still may potentially exist, although you would have a good argument that CA law should govern the contract since that is where you live, work, and where the company's local office is. Further, if the company is headquartered in CA, in the absence of a governing law provision, I don't see how they could argue that the laws of another state apply.
      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        California's position, unfortunately for the company, is that if the position is in California then California law applies. I believe the logic is that, since this is an issue of law applying to everyone working in California, the governing-law clause simply isn't relevant. I believe your case has happened before, and the CA courts simply ruled that, since the judgement has no basis in law, it can't be enforced in CA. It can, however, cause you problems if you want to go to work outside CA later.

  • I have been given these 'contracts' at the last three jobs that I have accepted, and on all three I print next to my signature:

    Signed under duress.

    This has only been questioned once and that one time it was allowed after I explained that (a) it was unconstitutional because the company was not paying me a specific retainer, and therefore didn't "own" my thoughts; (b) I promised to not to work on anything that could be considered a competing product; and (c) if they didn't accept it as a condition of my emplo
  • I WOULDN'T KNOW... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bratwiz (635601)

    I wouldn't know. I don't sign contracts that contain that type of language, except in very specific instances such as being hired to develop something VERY SPECIFICALLY spelled-out. I won't sign anything that says "anything I ever think up or do ever in my life while employed by FUCKWAD INC or not is FUCKWAD INC's property." Anytime an employer tries to stick that type of language in front of me, I either cross it out, re-write the contract, or walk out the door.

    What I don't get are pussies who go ahead and
    • I'm going to print this out and mail it to my mortgage company.
    • by MooseTick (895855)
      "What I don't get are pussies who go ahead and sign it."

      I think you get it, you just don't like it. People like you hate the fact that so many people will go ahead and sign such a document believing that it won't likely matter. And you know what? Most of the time it doesn't matter. Most people sign such documents, get hired, do their job, and eventually quit and the whole matter NEVER comes into question. Sure, they may have the best idea ever, but 99% of people just do their job and go home.

      While it may be
  • I was in a vaguely similar circumstance once. $300 for a lawyer's opinion was well worth it.
  • Contracts are changeable.

    Since when you aren't on the clock, they still get your ideas, alter the contract to include paying you some big $$$ consultant rate for ideas that happen outside of work.

    ALso make sure you continue to collect a check for that year when they still own your ideas, and since you aren't working for them, bill them at your $$$ consultant rate.

    Normally a company would rather cross out the items than pay for your time outside of work.
    • Normally the company will tell you,"You can't make any changes. That's the standard employee agreement. Everyone must sign it as is." If you don't want to sign it then you're free to be without a paycheck.

      As an added bonus, if you express any notion of changing the contract and then you buckle, rest assured that your employment there will be hell. You will be run in circles until you're ready to pull your hair out then fired after enough instances of your resulting frustration can be documented as evide
      • Normally the company will tell you,"You can't make any changes. That's the standard employee agreement. Everyone must sign it as is." If you don't want to sign it then you're free to be without a paycheck.

        Normally I tell the company, "This is my policy. If you don't want to accept my changes you're free to be without my skills and talents."

        Grow a pair, man. It's one thing if you're an unskilled lunk, but if you're a skilled professional, be assertive.

        If you're lucky then your HR reps may even put tha

  • This doesn't apply to the poster's case since he has been presented with the agreement prior to accepting the position, but in some of the cases mentioned, where the agreement was sprung on the new employee after he started the job, I wonder if it is valid at all since it was signed under duress and by imposing additional conditions on employment is a breach of the existing employment contract. Any of the lawyers (the real ones, not the ones who play a lawyer on /.) care to comment?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's a question of who has more legal representation. Sure, it's obvious that the federal government has been illegally wiretapping domestic phones for ten years or more, but they have the US Atty General to say,"No. Sorry. Everything we did was a-okay by me."

      The average employee who needs a job at the level at which these sorts of agreements are handed out can't afford to hire a lawyer who would be willing to risk his professional reputation riding up against a corporate entity. The fact that it's a co
  • ... claimed ownership of any ideas I create (on my own time or at the company) during my stay at the company and required me to inform them of any ideas (related to the company or not)...

    I wonder how things would turn out if you, and others signing such contracts, start following the contracts to the letter. I wonder if such a thing is even possible. How do they define "idea"? The way you beat traffic today... is that an idea? Report it. You think a colleague of yours would look a lot prettier if she does her hair the way you have in mind... is that an idea? Report it. The dust bins in the office: you think they blue ones go better with the office decor than grey ones... is that an idea?

    • Oh, you have OCD [wikipedia.org], too?

      Well, I have OCPD... which is similar but completely different. If that makes any sense.

      This if I find a place with a contract like this, I'll be sure to let them know about my condition _after_ I sign it. ;-)

  • Those are overreaching terms. The obligation to inform the employer is normal. The "owns ideas developed on your own time" is illegal in California. The employer probably has some out of state form they're using.

    That provision of California law built Silicon Valley. Anybody good who has a good idea is free to leave and do a startup. Which is what happens here all the time.

    Obligations beyond the end of employment need to be considered very carefully, because they can affect your next job. For that o

  • I seem to recall that even if you scratch out the comment and initial it AND have the "employer" initial it (in this case the HR rep) it might not count as an amendment. I think you need the company to redraft the contract without those clauses in it. It could very by state, etc. It also seems to me that if you ask for these changes, wether or not you get the changes, I have a sneaking suspicion the employer it going to keep track of you on-line and your business activity before, during and after your work
    • by nuggz (69912)
      A contract is just an agreement.

      If we modify the contract before agreeing to it, that is the contract we agreed to.
      We definately didn't agree to the pre-modification contract.
      • by Sparr0 (451780)
        This is fun logic to apply to EULAs :) Amend them before agreeing. I always do. And sometimes when I am feeling especially bored I actually mail a copy of the amended agreement to the publisher. Sadly, I have never gotten a reply :(
  • Two approaches (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I don't encounter this as much as I used to but there are two approaches which seem to work (depending on who you're dealing with).

    Both are aimed at giving them what they're entitled to - your ideas and inventions that come from work you do for them and are related to it during the term of the contract, and keeping what they're not - everything else.

    1. Large bureaucratic company.

    Very carefully scratch out words so that they keep only work related stuff, initial it, hand it back without
  • The following is a from a contract presented to me from an IT company in DC. In addition to the clause below, there were a half dozen clauses I wanted amended and another half dozen I wouldn't even consider signing. Needless to say, I didn't sign.
  • There are basically a few ways you can approach this.

    1) You are willing to quit and wait a year to develop any million dollar idea you have. You are willing to place a million dollar bet that any million dollar idea you come up with won't be replicated by someone else in a year's time. Make sure they can't prove you had the idea on their time. Don't commit anything to any physical media (not even pencil to paper, because they could carbon date it for a big enough idea). You are willing to perjure yourse
    • i am not sure how serious you are, but in re: #1 - radiocarbon dating is known to be very inaccurate for less than 50 years or so (wikipedia cites an example estimate as having an error of +- 30); as well, they might be able to determine the age of the paper and pencil, but what about when the one first met the other?
      • by Surt (22457)
        My point was really just to imagine an opponent with essentially unlimited resources trying to prove that your idea was developed at a specific time. Anything physical, presumably other than your mind, might be used as evidence against you.
  • Ok, I may need a real lawyer here.. Do any of you who practice law also read Slashdot?

    If one incorporated for purposes of employment. (I as an individual incorporate then
    the corporation offers it's services).

    Would the employment contract be binding on the corporation (the encorporated prospective
    employee) without binding the person "working for" the corporation?

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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