[opensource] Intellectual property concerns

Mark T.B. Carroll Mark.Carroll at Aetion.com
Sun Mar 19 19:31:15 EST 2006


"Adam Porr" <porr.4 at osu.edu> writes:
(snip)
> In your experience have you found that these agreements generally
> apply only to IP that is substantially related to the work that you do
> for your employer or is it more general? Have you found companies who

Aetion's default employment agreement, at least to date, has generally
been rather grabbing of IP and has generally had a one-year non-compete.
(We'll probably get around to reviewing it so that it's a little looser,
but not anytime soon.)

> are willing to make exceptions for open source?

Maybe about half our employees have asked us for a less restrictive IP
agreement, which we've generally granted, subject to some discussion
about quite what they're worried about protecting and quite what we can
cheaply get past our lawyers. Similarly, if they have specific employers
in mind or whatever that they want excluded from the non-compete, we
have accommodated that sort of request too.

In practice, employees during their employment have occasionally asked
for clear exemptions, and for us to release open-source small tools they
have written for themselves in the course of their work, and we've given
them the go-ahead to do that. (Generally, for stuff written on Aetion
time, we let them release it on the modified BSD license.)

> Perhaps this is better phrased in the form of a short survey:
>
> 1. Does your employer require you to sign an intellectual property agreement?

Yes, and a non-compete.

> 2. Is the scope of the agreement limited to IP related to the type of
> work you do for the company?

Not by default. Then again, like Battelle, we intend to put our fingers
into many pies.

> 3. Does your agreement have, or were you able to negotiate, an
> exemption for open source projects?

Yes, we would normally let people negotiate such, so long as it still
adequately protects what we do need protected.

> 4. Are you able to notify your employer beforehand of projects that
> you are interested in pursuing in order to get their permission?

Yes, we are normally happy to grant such permission.

> 5. If you don't mind sharing, I'd love to know where you work.

Aetion Technologies LLC. Disclaimer, though: I'm more on the hiring and
management side than the programming side, a position that would
encourage me to spin things in a rosy fashion.

> I figured that this group would be a good place to ask for advice, and
> I would greatly appreciate any that you can give me!

Good luck with Battelle. I'd be curious to know how much real innovation
still goes on there.

-- Mark


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