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Thread: Who owns the drawings?

  1. #41
    snocat_trf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toolsteel View Post
    My only thought on the subject is that you either need to be paid for what you do......or find a new hobby.

    I agree... they are not a charity... they are a company in business to make money and provide a service for their customers.

  2. #42
    PDW
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    Quote Originally Posted by bosleyjr View Post
    But again, people do stupid stuff, so be prepared. Also, I'd avoid sharing the drawing files with the company. And I'd have a physical disk image backup offsite (at, say, your brother's house in Nome, Alaska or someplace) with ongoing cloud backup. If I was really paranoid I'd use a disk encryption methodology so that even if your computer were appropriated, the files would be inaccessible.
    Ha ha ha..... been there, done that.

    Funny thing about contracts - if the other party doesn't make any payments then the contract has no validity and the software developer owns all the IP, regardless of any purported assignment of rights in said contract.

    Said company that didn't pay me tried the law path to get back a copy of the software but it was my computer, my development licence and my IP because they hadn't paid 3 invoices in a row and I quit the project.

    Let's just say that, had they been successful legally, the results may have fallen somewhat short of their expectations...... and my master copy was in another country so out of jurisdiction.

    But for the OP - as matalmunchr says, there's an arguable case. Approached the wrong way, there's also a career-limited future. I've been known to publish stuff as free open source if it's been my own work out of company hours. You don't get any money, but you do get a warm inner glow and other people can use the work. Just a thought in this case, if money isn't the issue as much as recognition.

    PDW

  3. #43
    IeliteENGINEER is offline Aluminum
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    what would be the benefit to yourself be if you gave this other company the drawings are they going to pay you for the 100 hours

    i wouldnt give them any drawings you could end up worse off than working a free 100 hours and you must be in the good books could there be a nice pay rise or promotion after that, if someone did that for me and my shop id be over the moon it wouldnt go with out a decent reward you clearly deserve it
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  4. #44
    macgyver is offline Hot Rolled
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    I have seen some of this first hand when working on campus at the local university. Try telling them they don't have the rights to your stuff and see what happens.

    I think that no matter which side of this is right or correct in the eyes of the law, the winner will be the one that has the best lawyer(s).

    Many responses have already said it, but the best thing to do is to just quit working at home for them, they want you to do the work, do it on the clock at their place. They don't want to get you access to a computer, then tell them to buy a pencil sharpener and some Big Chief tablets. Anything else, they need to compensate you for it. My guess, they don't know what you have invested in the project, let them find out on their dime, but be prepared for them getting pissed about how long it takes because you have already set the precedence for what you are willing to work for.

    I had a similar situation at the old job, they wanted me to keep up my level if investment in them, but they kept reducing theirs and when I started following the boss' own work ethics (as in only do what I am getting paid for and when) I wasn't there very many months after.

  5. #45
    jkilroy is offline Diamond
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    Unless you explicitly sign over ownership the copyright to automatically defaults to the author, you.

  6. #46
    CalG is offline Titanium
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkilroy View Post
    Unless you explicitly sign over ownership the copyright to automatically defaults to the author, you.

    For the paltry registration fee of ....your job.

    Might as well quite first, 'cause showing up to work every day after you are found out is going to be sure hell.
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  7. #47
    scphantm is offline Cast Iron
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    Quote Originally Posted by metlmunchr View Post
    Lots of assumptions here claiming employment law regarding intellectual property applies equally to everyone within a company when that's not the case by any means.

    The OP's job is "machinist". No part of that job compels him to share ideas, improve work methods, save the company time or money, or engage in any activity other than making parts.

    He spent his own time, on his own equipment, to design a tool to measure/set gear backlash.

    Setting and measuring gear backlash is a generic operation so the employer cannot claim that he used some proprietary knowledge gained via his employment with them to know that such a device might be desirable in industry.

    As a machinist, design work is outside the scope of his employment and his employer has confirmed this via their refusal to provide him with design equipment as a part of his toolset at work.

    Per the original post, the OP was asked by the employer to design this tool outside of normal work hours. That he made the parts on the clock is immaterial to the ownership of the design work. That he made the employer aware of the time he spent on the design work, and the fact that they chose not to compensate him for this time is evidence that the company considers the design to have no monetary value.

    Assuming there is some boilerplate text within the company's conditions of employment claiming ownership of any ideas or inventions, the company invalidated those conditions as they relate to this employee when they didn't pay him for his work. Its a basic legal principle within the US system that one-sided contracts are unenforceable. IOW, in this case, the employer can't claim ownership of work outside the scope of the employee's duties unless they're willing to pay for the work.

    That the employee did not press the issue of payment, and therefore donated the design to the company is an argument without merit. As an employee, he is in a negotiating position inferior to the position of management. IOW, although he knew he had a legal right to payment for the work, the prospect of losing his job if he pressed the issue would have a chilling effect on him exercising his right to payment.

    The parts made on company time belong to the company just the same as a Crescent wrench they bought belongs to them. But the design of the parts belongs to the OP just the same as the design of the wrench belongs to Crescent Tool because the company in both cases bought a product but not the design of the product.

    All the above is the reason many large employers pay handsomely for cost saving ideas submitted by tradespeople in their employ. Yes, they want to encourage the input, but that could be encouraged via some token payment. Rather than token payments, the payment is typically related to the projected cost savings related to the idea because the company has an interest in acquiring the legal right to use the idea as well as a legal right to the savings generated by the idea over the long term.

    Virtually all the responses to the OP's question seem to come from the perspective of people who are either in some design function like an engineer or machine designer, or in some level of supervision or management. From those perspectives, the responses would be correct since people in those positions are hired to do design work and/or to enhance the company's efficiency and productivity. There's a valid reason why such people can't claim ownership to work related ideas spawned "off the clock", in that the ability to make such claims would bring on endless conflicts where any idea having a high potential value would be claimed by some types of people as having been born during non-work hours. That these classes of employees are paid for their ideas as well as their physical work is a legitimate and widely accepted premise within employment law. The same does not apply to tradespeople because they're paid strictly for their physical work.

    Years ago I had a situation where an employee I supervised could potentially get a large sum of money(~$5000) from the company's suggestion program. He'd come up with an idea that would save a lot of time and effort in a different department within the company. He mentioned the idea, which was simple beyond belief as compared to the way the job was being done, and I told him to make the necessary pieces to give it a try. No design work necessary, and he had a prototype ready to go in half a day. The other dept tried it out and found it worked better than their existing cutters and stayed sharp roughly 3X as long.

    The primary advantages were that the new cutter was a 15 minute modification of an off the shelf $10 hardware store item where the existing cutters were custom made from tool steel at a cost of several hundred bucks apiece. The new cutter could be resharpened by a monkey in 5 minutes while the existing ones had to be sent out to a tool and cutter grinding shop for resharpening at close to $100 a pop.

    The employee hadn't mentioned anything about this idea being a part of the company suggestion program as it was something that just popped into his head one day and we pursued it. I wondered myself if it might qualify, but wasn't sure and didn't want to get his hopes up in case my suspicion that it would qualify might be wrong.

    I had a friend outside work who was a partner in the labor and employment law firm that represented the company. The company wasn't one of his own clients, but as a partner, the interests of all their clients was his interest as well. Knowing I could get the straight scoop from him, I decided to call him for some free advice before talking to anyone in the company about the situation. After I'd given him some background, he explained the legalities in about as simple terms as possible.

    You're the executive chef at a restaurant whose food is generally good, but the mashed potatoes are bland and tasteless.
    You come up with a new recipe for great mashed potatoes.
    The recipe belongs to the company because improving food quality is part of what you're paid to do.
    OTOH, one of your cooks comes up with the great mashed potato recipe, and makes a batch at work for everyone to try.
    In this case, the recipe belongs to the cook and not to the company since the cook is paid to cook and not paid to develop new recipes.
    Your shop man is paid for the physical work he performs, just the same as the cook.
    The idea for the new cutter is the equivalent of the cook's new recipe, and remains his property even though the test pieces were made at work.
    The idea becomes the property of the company when the company pays him under the terms of the suggestion program.

    At that point, I told the employee to fill out the paperwork to submit the idea as an official suggestion, and he was paid as prescribed in the program.

    Unless major changes have taken place within employment law in the 30 years since the above, the OP retains ownership of his mashed potato recipe and is free to do with it as he wishes.
    So basically, after $25k in legal bills, you will likely win the lawsuit and still be fired with a black cloud over your head.

    Bottom line, most employment contracts state that ANY and all work done while employed by the company belongs to the company. Thats why back in the day, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had to get written permission from HP to start Apple Computer. Woz was employed by HP at the time and his employment contract said any and all inventions Woz did belonged to HP.

    As stated above, you can argue around it and likely beat the criminal "Theft of work product" charges (least thats what they used to be called), but you would likely be cutting a check after the civil damages case. Either way, the lawyers would bleed you dry.

    Don't do it, stop working for free.

  8. #48
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    You know, you might ask HR for a copy of your contract, if any. Or the collective bargaining agreement, if any. If there is no contract or CB, I think you may be free to transmit this design to the third party.

    One critical thing: if the drawings represent the design the company was using BEFORE you started modifying it, I think they could make a pretty good claim that the drawings cannot be shared, regardless of who owns the dwg itself. So if you can separate your design from their design, and there is no contract restricting your IP rights, you may be in good shape.

    Last thought: why not ask the most reasonable mgmt person you know at your work if you can share the drawing with them?

  9. #49
    jkilroy is offline Diamond
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    Somebody that invents, creates, draws these ideas, they can tell an employer where to stuff it! Those employment contracts that say they own your first born and all that are almost impossible to enforce and they know it. It doesn't matter if you create the intellectual property at work, on work time, using a work computer, powered with work electricity, sitting in front of a work desk, under work lights, drinking work coffee, they can kiss both cheeks of my Lilly white ass!

    UNLESS YOU EXPLICITLY SIGN OVER YOUR RIGHTS THE COPYRIGHT BELONGS TO THE AUTHOR.

    To all those folks that say "Oh but you might loose your job!" get a grip, on your balls that is, if you still have them. You might want to head to the head and check, cause it sure sounds like you left them at home with the old lady.

  10. #50
    scphantm is offline Cast Iron
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkilroy View Post
    Somebody that invents, creates, draws these ideas, they can tell an employer where to stuff it! Those employment contracts that say they own your first born and all that are almost impossible to enforce and they know it. It doesn't matter if you create the intellectual property at work, on work time, using a work computer, powered with work electricity, sitting in front of a work desk, under work lights, drinking work coffee, they can kiss both cheeks of my Lilly white ass!

    UNLESS YOU EXPLICITLY SIGN OVER YOUR RIGHTS THE COPYRIGHT BELONGS TO THE AUTHOR.

    To all those folks that say "Oh but you might loose your job!" get a grip, on your balls that is, if you still have them. You might want to head to the head and check, cause it sure sounds like you left them at home with the old lady.
    In a lot of cases employment contracts are unenforceable nowadays. BUT, also, in most cases its not about enforcing the contract. Company i did work for years ago put all that stuff in the employment contract not to enforce it, but to drive you into bankruptcy trying to beat it.
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  11. #51
    Grumpy365 is offline Aluminum
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    I simply can't fathom giving my company something so they can prosper for free and receive nothing in return.

    I value my time at $40.00 an hour. To me, there is NO difference between giving them 100 hours and writing them a check for $4,000.00 as a good will gesture.

    Value yourself and what you do. People don't value your contribution unless they see the value.
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  12. #52
    PDW
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkilroy View Post
    Somebody that invents, creates, draws these ideas, they can tell an employer where to stuff it! Those employment contracts that say they own your first born and all that are almost impossible to enforce and they know it. It doesn't matter if you create the intellectual property at work, on work time, using a work computer, powered with work electricity, sitting in front of a work desk, under work lights, drinking work coffee, they can kiss both cheeks of my Lilly white ass!

    UNLESS YOU EXPLICITLY SIGN OVER YOUR RIGHTS THE COPYRIGHT BELONGS TO THE AUTHOR.

    To all those folks that say "Oh but you might loose your job!" get a grip, on your balls that is, if you still have them. You might want to head to the head and check, cause it sure sounds like you left them at home with the old lady.
    Were you sober when you wrote that? Because it's an idiotic rant.

    It has already been pointed out many times that the author has copyright absent an assignment via employment contract.

    It has already been pointed out many times that even if you do legally own the copyright, defending yourself in court could well result in bankruptcy.

    It has already been pointed out many times that even if the company decided not to sue you, that you could go on a 'shit list' and have your life made miserable or get fired.

    The OP needs to weigh up all those factors and make a decision after weighing up the potential costs.

    Your approach is akin to an attempt on a financial Darwin award.

    FWIW, having been a software designer for over 30 years, I suspect I've read & signed far more contracts dealing with IP issues than you ever have, and have personally lived through the fallout when things start going tits-up. I already advised the OP to talk to his management about the drawings and stop doing 'free' work if the company values his efforts at $0.00.

    Personally, I prefer my balls to stay right where they are, or with the 'old lady' rather than sitting in a jar on my lawyer's filing cabinet - which is where your approach is likely to facilitate.

    PDW
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  13. #53
    vettedude is offline Cast Iron
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    Quote Originally Posted by SRT Mike View Post
    Most companies will have a clause in any employment contract that anything you design/create that is in the line of work you do is owned by the company, regardless of whether it was created on company time or not.

    I believe that even if it's not stated in a contract, that's how the court system would see things too, if it came to that.
    I am not a lawyer, but in TEXAS, that is not very enforceable. If it is on your own time and you were not compensated it is not theirs. Regardless of signing a NDA, they did not pay for it! But it is sorta gray in your case.

    Regardless, unless you plan on looking for a new job you will compromise your position. Why would you help a competitor, that's taking food from your mouth to feed someone else!

    Just cause they have X clause does not mean it is legally enforceable. They can sue you for anything, not sure they will win.
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  14. #54
    vettedude is offline Cast Iron
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    Quote Originally Posted by scphantm View Post
    So basically, after $25k in legal bills, you will likely win the lawsuit and still be fired with a black cloud over your head.
    Maybe 25k on your side, could be 100k - 1,000,000 for the employer, if they screw up you can sue them back, they have allot more to lose than some "Machinist" being a cowboy. You don't sue someone who does not have money, unless you are a moron. Suing is a business decision just like buying a new piece of equipment.
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  15. #55
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    First NEVER do anything on your own time for a company. Consider it an expensive lesson and move on. If they ever ask for an engineered measuring device part etcetera unless it is in your Job description..... it is not your job. My example, Everything that I do can be traced back to some text / machining reference book if they need it , want it they can figure it out. I routinely deal with reliability engineers who are "special" believe me. My job description vs their job description usually shuts them down and gets them to do their job. If they ask again tell them you are on the clock and they provide everything you need to do the job.
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  16. #56
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    gotta stop doing the work for free from home.

  17. #57
    park city man is offline Aluminum
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    You may own the drawings, and you may not have signed over your rights to them to the company, but how much money can you piss away to lawyers if you show them to outsiders. Even if you win, you lose.

    I would keep that money and start job hunting. They've shown themselves for what they are.

    I would read the opening post in the following thread: "How should I handle denied raise/promotion situation". It's located in this forum, and started 8/12/13. Then I'd read post #75 in the thread, mostly the quote of Douglas J. Rizzo's thoughts on how to go about it.

    Finally, they would never see the drawings. Unless they wanted to buy them.

    Tom

  18. #58
    gmatov is offline Diamond
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    I don't think there IS a Sam Adams brewery. I believe in the Western PA region, Sam Adams is brewed by Iron City, of Pittsburgh, PA. And brewing beer is not difficult, been done for more than a 1000 years. You can't steal secrets from them, they don't have any, other than their formulas/recipes.

    For a couple hundred years , mechanics in the US have learned their trade working for others. When they became smarter than the boss, they went out on their own, set up companies that put their old boss into the ground.

    It is more difficult with changes in the Law. If you even think of something while at work, do it at home, it belongs to the Company. Creativity is dead. You may patent something, but it has to be signed over to the Company.

    Most patents are Corporate, minute improvements, or changes, patented by the company to prevent a competitor from patenting something similar, lawsuit!

    George

  19. #59
    bullandbladder is offline Aluminum
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    OP, have you actually spoken to your employer about getting paid for your work-at-home time?

    You state you have "not been compensated" - have you been rebuked and now looking for some kind of revenge by selling to another company?

    Tread carefully

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