That's What She Said

Who Owns the Inventions of an Entreprenerd?

Tonight featured two more repeats of The Office. Summer is great, well, except for the TV (come on, is NYC Prep really giving you your fix?). Since I figured we pretty much covered everything blogworthy in those episodes when they first aired, I turned to the show’s official website for inspiration this week.

NBC’s fun site features “The Office Addictionary,” which gives us this word of the day: “Entreprenerd (noun) A person obsessed with inventing useless or bizarre products.” Many of us know these types of people — I think of the guy in the movie Office Space who invented a “Jump to Conclusions Mat” where you could literally jump onto various evenly spaced conclusions.

But in real life what happens when an employee of a company invents something while he’s at work? Who owns it? Well, if it doesn’t make any money, nobody cares. But if it has the potential . . . that’s where things get interesting.

As a general rule, if an employee creates a work in the scope of his employment, then the employer is the owner of the invention. Of course, there may be a different outcome if the inventor is an independent contractor, or if there is a contract in place addressing ownership. Also, certain rules may apply when an employee uses an employer’s resources in creating his product, even if it’s outside the scope of employment. In short, if you’re an “entreprenerd” with your eye on making millions, your best bet is probably to do your inventing at home!