Shareholder and Chair of the Employment and Labor Department, Elizabeth M. Garcia discusses the new law regarding employee innovators and inventors that took effect this month.
On April 1, 2018, the Employee Rights to Ownership of Inventions law took effect protecting the rights and properties of employee innovators and inventors. As noted in the Statement contained in the Legislation when it was first introduced, “the general intent of this bill is to preserve an employee’s common law rights to the exclusive ownership and usage of any employee invention totally unrelated to the job functions of the employee and created wholly without using any employer resources.”
Previous to this law, companies compelled their employees to sign over any and all rights to inventions that they created, regardless of whether those inventions were made within the confines of the office or on the inventor's own time, and whether the inventor utilized company materials or the inventions were made completely independently of the inventor's employment. Those agreements may no longer be enforceable. As for any employment agreement entered into on or after April 1, 2018, containing an employee invention assignment provision for inventions developed outside the employee’s employment, “shall be deemed against public policy.”
This law ensures that employees of a company who create or innovate on their own time, without the use of the company’s resources, have complete ownership of their invention. It is important to note that this protection may not apply to an invention that may relate to the employer’s business. That said, it is a protection that was previously unavailable to employees solely because they were employed as they worked independently on their own vision.
This is not to say that inventors will automatically receive protections should their employer make claims of ownership of innovations made by their employees when they are “off the clock.” It is extremely important for companies that generally require employees to sign over rights to an invention or innovation to understand how this law affects them.
For more information and guidance on this topic, please contact the attorneys in Parker McCay’s Employment and Labor Department.
The content of this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion. You should consult a lawyer concerning your specific situation and any specific legal question you may have.