Without them knowing you created said software. In the last year I worked on a software that would solve a business need for my employer. I did this with the encouragement of my boss who is chief of our department. He has a lot of say in what software the company will buy. This was done in secret.

I learned a lot and the probability of selling the software is high. This could be a start of my own business. But I feel very burnout, I am scared that the software will not be good enough. Also I just received offer from another firm with competitive terms. But this would mean that this project would be essentially dead. And I just got used to my coworkers.

I feel like I have one last chance to make my decision. What should I do?

I already informed my boss of the offer.

  • 18
    Without knowing the details of your contract, it sounds like your employer might already own it. – Laconic Droid Mar 22 '19 at 12:57
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    did you create the software using company's tools or time? – Homerothompson Mar 22 '19 at 12:59
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    If you worked on it in company time the software is your boss', not yours. – Fatal Error Mar 22 '19 at 13:04
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    This is all so sketchy and unethical. You used company resources to develop software that you'll sell back to your employer, meaning they'll pay for it twice instead of approaching your employer with your boss and presenting it to them. You should just take the new offer before your employer terminates you or takes you to court. – Xander Mar 22 '19 at 13:18
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    Even if you did manage to sell it to your boss without raising any alarms, there is no guarantee that he's not going to get caught, either in this or something else - and given how sketchy this appears to be, he will 100% throw you under the bus to cover his backside. – Julia Hayward Mar 22 '19 at 13:21

Without them knowing you created said software.

Hold your breath, first check how many clauses of your contract you have breached already.

Unless I'm very wrong, you used "insider" knowledge to design and create a software, and now you want to "sell" it to your employer.

I already informed my boss of the offer.

You might be in trouble already, I'll advise

  • Check your contract
  • Consult with a professional lawyer

Note: In most cases, any artifact (code, script, document, prototype etc.) developed using either (1) company resource (hardware or software) (2) Company-paid time (3) Company specific knowledge already belongs to the company. It is not even "yours", to begin with.

In some cases, even the work done in your own time also is owned by the company already. Unless you are really really sure that the product you're claiming to be yours actually belongs to you, I'd say, it's a very risky idea.

I did this with the encouragement of my boss who is chief of our department.

Unless that "encouragement" was in form of a written approval to use the knowledge and resource, I don't think it has much value.

He has a lot of say in what software the company will buy

This is also a red flag. Someone who has a decision making power, usually refrain from making suggestions/ dropping hints about a potential product.

What should I do?

In the given order

  • Talk to a lawyer
  • Immediately remove yourself from all sorts of association / involvement with the "product"
  • Just accept the offer from the other company and forget you ever thought of this selling idea.
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    You don't know my boss. He is very shady. I will take my offer, and be done with this. – JobOfferStartupDilemma Mar 22 '19 at 13:03
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    @JobOfferStartupDilemma If it is as you say it is, I'm happy I don't know your boss. – Sourav Ghosh Mar 22 '19 at 13:04
  • Yes, I think you can be glad you don't know him. – JobOfferStartupDilemma Mar 22 '19 at 13:10
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    @JobOfferStartupDilemma So, if that is the case, forget what you did, forget you were ever involved in this and gladly accept the other offer and move on. At least, you wont end up in jail. – Sourav Ghosh Mar 22 '19 at 13:12

No. This is not okay.

You say that the software was developed in secret, and that you'd be looking at selling them the software without them knowing that you were the one that produced it, and that the software was created with the encouragement of a guy who'll be part of deciding whether or not this gets used, and who's set himself up to get a kickback by selling it through another company. You did it on company time. Nothing about this is okay. This is, in fact, illegal. You should know that this is illegal. I'm pretty sure you do know that this is illegal.

Realize that if you do this, you are giving your boss blackmail-level influence over you, basically forever, and probably setting yourself up to take the fall for some scheme of his in the future. You do not want to let that kind of guy have that kind of power over you.

You need to get out. You need to get out now. You need not not be entangled with this person, or his friend's company in any way. This will not end well. So... easy answer, you just take the job offer and walk. Somewhat better answer morally, you report to someone who is not your boss, you give them the program that you wrote, and tell them it was produced as a side project to fill this particular need, then you walk. If you're feeling particularly brave, you can even warn them how much of a slimeball your boss is. Regardless, you do this while tendering your resignation, and you walk out of the building.

Do not be a part of this. Do not be a part of anything like this. It will not end well for you. This is not "you starting your own business". This is "you becoming your boss's patsy".

  • Thank you for this. I am taking the offer. I am grateful for all I learned but I don't want this in my life. – JobOfferStartupDilemma Mar 22 '19 at 13:24
  • Where does the OP say that this was done on company time and/or with company equipment?... Never mind, the OP admitted it in a comment. – Dan Pichelman Mar 22 '19 at 15:15
  • Which laws may potentially be broken? There's a possible case for breach of contract, but that's a far cry from "incredibly illegal" – Dan Pichelman Mar 22 '19 at 15:15
  • @Dan Pichelman I'd say that there's a case for fraud, at least, along with the breach of contract. Still, your point is taken. I was, perhaps, overly emphatic. I've edited out the "incredibly". – Ben Barden Mar 22 '19 at 15:27
  • I didn't read the post or comments very well the first time through. The fact that the boss intends to launder this project through a 3rd party "contact who owns a software development company" certainly raises the stink of possible fraud. – Dan Pichelman Mar 22 '19 at 15:31

If you developed something directly related to your job using company resources, it's almost certainly already theirs. That's a very standard clause in employment agreements and, unless your company runs their onboarding process especially incompetently, you almost certainly have that kind of clause in your agreement already. This is especially true given that you evidently developed this on company time.

If you attempt to "sell" something to them that they already own, you're almost certainly in breach of contract at a minimum for not turning it over to them in the first place, and doing so would likely constitute fraud.

For comparison, look up the case of George C. Parker, who was noted for "selling" the Brooklyn Bridge (and other properties he didn't own) to gullible buyers. Incidentally, he went to prison three times for this behavior, eventually receiving a life sentence and spending the last 8 years of his life in prison. Point being, what you're asking about is no different; in fact, it's arguably even worse because the person you're selling it to already owns the property in question.


Leave the onerous on your employer.

Offer it to sell, at your price. If they purchase it or not is their discretion and it is their responsibility to provide any appropriate legal, employment (etc) protection. Keep in mind that you are signing it off to them most likely, but I think you already understand this.

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    "Onus", not "onerous". Also, downvote for recommending unethical and possibly criminal behaviour. – BittermanAndy Mar 22 '19 at 16:46
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    This is terrible advice. The OP is likely already in breach of contract for not turning it over to them in the first place, and trying to sell it to them could be a form of fraud. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '19 at 17:14

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