intellectual property agreements and open source . was - Re: Why does this fail? [2]

Peter Hansen peter at
Mon Jan 5 23:28:30 CET 2004

Dave Murray wrote:
> After re-reading this part, I can see that it is an idea that I like. How
> does participating in open source work for someone (me) who has signed the
> customary intellectual property agreement with the corporation that they
> work for? Since programming is part of my job, developing test solutions
> implemented on automatic test equipment (the hardware too) I don't know if I
> would/could be poison to an open source project. How does that work? I've
> never participated. If all the work is done on someone's own time, not using
> company resources, yadda-yadda-hadda-hadda, do corporate lawwwyaahhhs have a
> history of trying to dispute that and stake a claim? No doubt, many of you
> are in the same position.

My own agreement, which is not quite as archaic in restricting me as some I've
seen, boils down to saying that if I work on something that is either (done 
on company time or with company resources) OR (relates to the current or 
likely future business of the company) then I'm agreeing that the company 
in effect gets an exclusive right to whatever it is.

If, on the other hand, it's on my own time AND does not involve what the
company's business is (in contrast to, say, simply relating to tools that 
they might use within the business), then they don't get any right to it.
We use various test tools at work, but just because I work on a similar 
open source test tool doesn't mean the company has any exclusive right to it.
We sell RF stuff, not test tools, so test tools are not the company's 
business, nor are they likely ever to be...

I believe many or most agreements these days boil down to the same thing,
but of course your own might not so reading it would be a good idea.  

Generally there is lots of boilerplate legalese but it surrounds one or
two key paragraphs of fairly simple English with the essence described above, 
and it's not as hard to dig the key ideas out as it might seem at first glance.


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