Corso v Nebs Business Products Ltd (2009), 2009 CarswellOnt 1410

Key Principle:

By default, an employer owns the copyright to any patentable product that his employee produces in the course of employment. It makes no difference if the employee calls the product a personal project, or whether he initially develops it on his own time.


The Situation:

You are a developer at a software firm. Several months ago, you started working on an ingenious program at work, putting in time between tasks. It was your intention to sell the program independently online. When your boss catches wind of your side project, he sends you an email indicating that, since you wrote the program at work, it is company property. He insists that you have no right to sell the program for personal profit.

The Conclusion:

Your boss is correct. While at work, it is your duty to put your skills to use for the benefit of your employer. Thus, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, any patentable products you produce while at work belong to your employer. It’s irrelevant that you viewed the program as a personal project.