Do I need to sign or be bound by an agreement degrading my invention in an at will employment relationship?

How can my employer have me sign an agreement that any idea for an invention would become the exclusive property of my employer? They do not own my thoughts and ideas.

Asked on November 3, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

They do not own your thoughts and idea--unless you give them to them. If you sign a contract stating that they would own any inventions, etc., and you sign such a contract as a condition of employment (including, if you already work there, as a requirement for continued empoloyment), that contract is legal and enforceable--you received good consideration (your job) in exchange for signing over the rights to your inventions. A contract like you describe is actually fairly common for people in technical or creative fields. If you do not feel comfortable signing it or feel that it's worthwhile, your options are to try to negotiate somewhat different terms that you would be comfortable with--or to not sign, take the chance you'll be fired, and seek other employment.

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