It happens all of the time – an employee that works for you comes up with an amazing invention. Maybe it is an app or it is a piece of software that helps your company grow. Whatever the case may be, it allows you exponential growth. Now the employee decides it is time to move on and work elsewhere or even for himself – now who owns the invention? Are you out of luck?
The answer is not cut and dry as it is typically looked at on a case-by-case basis. However, there are certain stipulations that often govern the answer for a majority of the cases.
How were you Hired?
Were you hired for the specific reason to create an invention? Or were you hired because of your talent for inventions? If you were hired specifically for inventions or because of your talent for them, then chances are the employer will have the rights to continue to use your invention long after you are gone. The employer can argue that you were brought on specifically to create XYZ product and now they have the rights to use it.
If you were an independent contractor, on the other hand, you may have more rights to your product than your employer has. This depends on the nature of the projects the employer paid you for and how much of their materials, space, and money you used to create the project. Generally, independent contractors have more leeway with taking the rights to their invention with them, but not always.
You should also read your employment agreement that you signed up hiring if you are an employee or even a contractor. That agreement may state that any inventions made during the scope of the agreement are the property of the employer/company. If you do not read the fine print, you might not know what you are signing and may inadvertently give away the rights to your product.
If you are not sure about making an invention and giving away its rights, consult with a qualified attorney. You can then learn what your rights are and how to protect them if you know the invention you are creating is one that will make the company money and will be something that you want to take with you down the road or even if you want to continue to receive royalty payments on the product. None of this is a given as many companies have more rights than you realize, so make sure you are protected before you start making your inventions.