Does my future employer own my current startup ideas? (California)

I have ideas but no means to execute on them.  I will be joining an unrelated tech company (unrelated to my ideas). During employment I work on my ideas at home using personal equipment and many months or years into the job, I decide to quit and launch my grand idea which is now a product.  Have I given them any reason or ability to claim ownership?


  • No, but they could still make a claim if they wanted. Make sure you haven’t signed any ownership agreements that include off-hour work, and don’t discuss it at your day job.

  • Usually there is an agreement for “previous work”. Use it. You sign it and give them a list of ideas or inventions expressly not covered by the companies intellectual property agreement.

    Put your ideas into writing in a broad way, something that would cover almost any incarnation of the idea. One or two sentences, not specific. Keep the list, add to it and never delete. Keep it for the next company.

    If the place you are going does not have an IP agreement, and does not ask, write it up and give it to them anyhow. Make them sign, date and give you a copy of the signed paperwork. Question if you want to work for people without a proper attorney and basic protections for themselves and the employees in place. If they will not do this refuse to work for them.

  • Those agreements are super hard for them to enforce. And as long as you do not use any company property don’t worry about it.

  • At a minimum put dates on all your notes to make it clear that they were developed before you became employed with however.

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