The High-touch Legal Services® Blog…for Startups!

© 2009-2021 Dana H. Shultz

Employee Proprietary Rights Agreements – Be Careful

Some companies force employees to sign proprietary rights agreements under which the employee automatically assigns to the company any patent applications that the employee files within one year following separation from the company. I have always considered these provisions unjustifiable. California law apparently has reached the same conclusion.

Applied Materials Made a Mistake

In Applied Materials, Inc. v. Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment (Shanghai) Co., et al., 630 F.Supp.2d 1084 (2009), the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that such a provision is unlawful. (more…)

Implied Copyright License: A Life-and-Death Example

Seal of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which decided an implied copyright license caseSeveral months ago, I wrote about the circumstances under which courts will find an implied copyright license if there has not been an assignment of copyright. (If You Don’t Set the Terms of a Copyright License, a Court Will) In a recent case (Estate of Hevia v. Portrio Corp.), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that there was an implied copyright license in a partnership context.

The decedent, Roberto Hevia-Acosta, was an architect. Following his death, his estate and heirs waged an intensive legal battle against his business partner over copyrights in the decedent’s architectural designs.

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Securing IP Requires More than an NDA

Logo for Quora, where Dana Shultz answered a question about needing more than an NDA to secure intellectual propertyWhen it comes to protecting intellectual property (IP), non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are ubiquitous. What many entrepreneurs fail to realize, however, is that securing IP requires more than an NDA. For an NDA to do its job, the company must actually own the IP in the first place!

The most serious ownership problems arise when there is no written agreement between the company and the individual developing the IP. Depending on the nature of the IP (for example, whether copyright or patent protection applies) and whether the developer is an employee of the company or an independent contractor, the developer may own the IP.  If this is the case, the company has, at most, a non-exclusive license.

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Does My New Employer Now Own My Software?

Quora logo

This post is adapted (with editing) from a Quora question that I answered. Q. I developed a software application on my own, then adapted it for my new employer, where it is used enterprise-wide. What are my ownership rights in this situation?

A. It would help to know whether you signed any type of proprietary information and inventions agreement with your employer. If you did, its terms (obviously) will be of great importance. You did not mention any such agreement, so I will assume, for the purposes of the discussion below, that there is no such agreement.

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Corporate Housekeeping: Keeping Documents in Order

From time to time, clients with established businesses have asked me to bring order to their legal affairs. I refer to this as ” corporate housekeeping “.

Usually, the request results from an extraordinary, but desirable, event. This might be an acquisition offer, a prospective new investor, or a restructuring for tax purposes. In each instance, the client quickly realizes that it has not been paying close enough attention to legal documentation.

Although the clients are in different industries, their stories are similar. In essence, they limit their legal activities and expenditures to those required to bring business in the door, satisfy customers’ needs, and pay employees. This approach works on a day-to-day basis. Yet when the extraordinary event comes up, the company suddenly needs to devote scarce resources to legal clean-up. (more…)