Re: homemade inkjet printer head

From: Jonathan Handel (
Date: Sun Jun 09 2002 - 03:31:44 EEST

There's a distinction that should be made here. If you hire a programmer as
an employee, then you, the employer, automatically own the copyright for
work created within the course and scope of his/her employment, not the
employee. But if you contract with someone as an independent contractor,
then they own the copyright in the absence of an express written
agreement. I would not rely on a PO; there should be a signed agreement.

Even with employees, there should be a written agreement, for several
reasons. The "employer owns" rule does not apply to patent
rights. Moreover, even as to copyright, a written agreement avoids debate
over whether someone was actually an employee. And, a written agreement
that includes a confidentiality clause is generally necessary to protect
trade secret rights.

At 01:29 PM 06/08/2002, wrote:
>You are right software and design rights are a tricky business. When you
>contract with a design house to make a design or you contract a manufacturer
>to make a part or when you contract with a programmer to write code, it is
>necessary to explicitly state in the PO or contract that the final product
>and the drawings are deliverables and are products of work for hire.
>Otherwise the product design and drawings or the software developed belongs
>to the contractor, not to you. The most famous case where not writing the
>phrase "Work for hire..." in a PO involved an invention worth $300 million,
>polymerase chain reaction or PCR. Kerry Mullis, then at Cetus and the
>inventor, wrote a purchase order to Perkin Elmer to design and make a
>thermocycler to his specs. Perkin Elmer delivered the device, but refused to
>deliver the drawings, claiming ownership of the design and the machine. As a
>result, Cetus had to grant Perkin Elmer an exclusive right to use PCR for
>non-clinical applications in exchange for certain restrictions on the use of
>the thermocycler.
>On the software side, in the 1970s and early 80s, many Silicon Valley
>companies learned the hard way that by hiring a software programmer to
>develop applications or write code, the ownership resided with the creator,
>the programmer, not with the company. Several companies found that they
>could use their products and in one case could not modify its application
>without the express written permission of the contracted programmer they paid
>to write the code. This is because software is usually protected by
>copyright which inures to the benefit of the creator.
>Scott Taper
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