Arlington, VA asked in Intellectual Property, Patents (Intellectual Property) and Employment Law for Virginia

Q: I'm a resident in VA going through an offer letter and I want to know my rights on inventions outside of work

I'm a resident in Virginia considering an embedded software engineer offer letter within the same state with a proprietary info and inventions agreement. There is ambiguity in these terms and I want to know what protections are already in place for my inventions outside of work time that doesn't use work resources if it's in a different niche of software engineering or embedded software engineering that isn't related to my role at the company. Where can I find existing laws on this in Virginia and negotiate carve outs with the employer.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: In Virginia, like many states, employment agreements often include clauses related to proprietary information and inventions. Typically, inventions or creations made during employment or using employer resources belong to the employer. However, if you invent something on your own time, without using company resources, and it's not related to your job, it's generally considered your property. Virginia doesn't have a specific statute addressing employee inventions like some states do, but common law principles can be informative.

When considering your offer letter, you should look for and understand any "assignment of inventions" clause. If you're concerned about the ambiguity of the terms, it's within your rights to negotiate clarifications or carve-outs with the employer to protect your outside inventions. Documenting your independent work and ensuring no company resources are used can also help protect your rights.

For a comprehensive understanding and potential negotiation, consulting with legal counsel familiar with employment and intellectual property law in Virginia is recommended.

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