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VIC Intellectual Property Law - Making Software Similar to Company's Software?

Discussion in 'Employment Law Forum' started by An Alias, 22 November 2015.

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  1. An Alias

    An Alias Member

    22 November 2015
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    I currently work for a large global software company in a middle management position. Have been with this company more than 10 years.

    For various reasons, I am considering resigning from this company and after resigning I plan to create a hardware/software product that works with the software produced by the company I currently work for.

    This company, whilst specializing in software, also makes a single hardware device that interfaces with their software to perform various functions. No other company makes a device that works with this software.

    I am trying to find out the legalities of this. I do not and have never worked in any part of the Engineering department so I do not have any access to source code, diagrams, secret specs, etc. I have however worked with these devices for a very long time so as part of my job I have had to learn a lot about how they work, which has just been through troubleshooting, configuring and installing them for clients. These devices are publicly available (ie: I could buy one on eBay right now) so there is nothing "secret" about them. My plan is to write the software that behaves like or emulates these devices, and that software will run on generic, mass produced hardware (like a Tablet or Phone).

    Obviously before I make this decision, I need to try and understand the legal aspects of intellectual property law before embarking on this project. I am not sure of the right questions to ask or the right person or type of person to speak to in relation to this. I understand that a complete answer to this issue is probably way beyond a Q&A forum, so I am fully expecting to have to engage with a Lawyer on this, I just need a little push in the right direction.

    Hoping I could get some insight from some folks much smarter than me in this field.

    Appreciate any responses.

  2. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

    16 April 2014
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    Hi An Alias,

    I would first be considering any restraint of trade clause in your employment contract which would prevent you from going into competition with your employer for a certain period of time after or within a certain geographical location.

    Then in terms of intellectual property on the actual design - copyright only covers the expression of ideas - it does not cover the ideas themselves which are therefore open to anyone else to use. Therefore provided you have unique source code and a unique way of creating the product you are not in breach of copyright. I trust they don't hold a patent over the product? So that shouldn't be an issue.

    Obviously also your trademarks and logos would need to be very distinct when you start your own business to ensure you are not accused of passing off - or trying to piggyback on the success of your former employer. This is akin to trademark infringement and they can seek compensation for you if established before a court.

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