Q: Statute of limitation on company claiming ownership of my work?
I am working at a fortune 500 company as a software developer. At the time of employment, I signed an agreement that said if I work on anything even during my own time the company would own it. Is there a statute of limitation on the contract? If I make a service/product now while employed at the same company, and I decide to quit, is there a state of limitation on how long the company has before they can claim what I worked on is theirs? My State of residence is Florida.
Each case is different but generally speaking, under the U.S. copyright laws, works created by employees within the scope of their employment are considered "works made for hire" and are owned by the employer and not the actual employee who created such works. Works are also considered "works for hire" if the parties expressly so agree in a written instrument signed by them.
In this case, the answers to your questions will largely depend on whether (i) the works were actually created within your specific scope of employment, (ii) what exactly terms and conditions are contained in that agreement that you signed with the employer, and (iii) whether there were other agreements (employment agreement, non-compete agreement, NDAs, etc.) between the parties that may include other relevant terms and provisions. There may be other unknown variables as well. So if you need a specific answer and legal guidance, you should get a private consultation with an experienced intellectual properly attorney.
For general information purposes, you may also want to review the Copyright Office's Circular 9 (which provides information about works for hire). You can see the publication here: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf.
This answer was provided for general educational purposes only. This is not legal advice. I am not your attorney.
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