Wickliffe, OH asked in Intellectual Property for Ohio

Q: What is the status of applications and databases developed without an intellectual property assignment agreement?

I have been working for the same company for the past 17 years. Over that time I have developed several applications and databases to make both my and my coworkers jobs easier. These systems were mostly done without direction from management, who took a hands off approach to development, though a few were done at their request. Most were done using a combination of on and off work hours.

The owners are now selling the business and the buyers are requiring them to obtain a signature from me on an IP assignment agreement.

I dont really see an upside for me to sign this thing. What are my rights here?

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3 Lawyer Answers

A: Vey tricky question.

If what you did was paid for, directly or indirectly and with the purpose of benefiting the company, they can make an argument that it is theirs.

Check if you signed anything at the beginning of your employment.

Also, this may be a bargaining chip for you and your colleagues to negotiate some settlement or something.

Best luck

You need to talk to an attorney


Allison Higgins
Allison Higgins

A: You should definitely speak with an attorney about your situation before signing anything. My guess is they're asking you to sign the assignment because they don't know who really owns it and want a quick way to get it over with. As Marcos said, you may or may not have a work for hire agreement in place from when you first signed on. There are lots of maybes here. Definitely reach out to an IP attorney for a better answer.

Kathryn Perales
Kathryn Perales
  • Oberlin, OH
  • Licensed in Ohio

A: I agree with the other attorneys' answers. Further...

The upside may turn out to be that you get to keep your job if you sign the IP assignment. It's likely that you have no obligation to sign the assignment, if you don't mind losing your job. In my opinion, they can't force you to sign such an assignment - if under Ohio law your innovations belong to your employer, then no assignment is necessary.

The whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense - the things you describe that you developed are not likely patentable, especially if they are over a year old. Is part of it a noncompetition agreement, where they're trying to restrict you from getting a different job? That would be something to be more worried about.

Glad to discuss this more - if you're in Wickliffe, then Ohio law is what's important here.

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