I’ve recently started an LLC with a co-worker and am looking for some advice. We’re currently both employed by a fairly large company that produces software that is specialized and only really relevant in that market.

One of the first products we plan on developing for this business was inspired by our current project. The service is relatively complicated and virtually nonexistent publicly; however, the information is publicly available and none of the ideas utilize any proprietary information and are entirely backed by private research done outside of work hours.

With that being said; we are currently working on a solution for our primary gig while tangentially working on a similar solution to market independently. The code, data, infrastructure, and design is different from our work solution as we are designing it for general use. Realistically; the only similarity between the two solutions is that we’re solving a similar problem.

We don’t plan on leaving our current positions any time soon, so we want some advice on how to approach this opportunity both from a professional and legal point of view. How should we approach informing coworkers and the company at large? Should this be something we announce early on or later after we have a finished product? We also don’t want to make it seem like we’re creating a less than optimal solution for our company with the hopes that they will use our product. The company is very supportive of its employees having side gigs. In fact, another coworker built and released a product very similar to an existing product at our primary gig. That being said, what measures should we take to protect ourselves and our product legally?

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    Do you have any NDA or Non-compete agreement in place? – DarkCygnus Aug 1 '19 at 23:41
  • speak to your coworker that you mention and ask what they did – mgh42 Aug 1 '19 at 23:43
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    Yes we do, but to our knowledge, we're not violating it. The software we're developing would be more used by the company and not compete with the company and the resources we're using is public or owned by us. – DoLittle Aug 1 '19 at 23:43
  • How, when and whether you inform coworkers would heavily depend on company culture, how well you know your coworkers and what your actual goal is with informing them. How to protect yourself (and also when you can start telling people about it) is something only a lawyer would be qualified to answer. – Bernhard Barker Aug 2 '19 at 0:06
  • @DoLittle So you already developed a solution in-house, and then you expect them to just adopt the solution you came up for them outside of work? – さりげない告白 Aug 2 '19 at 2:31

You need legal advice here, not workplace-related advise. At the least, make sure you have not signed any non-compete clause, and are not violating any terms of job agreement with your current employer.

Seek professional legal assistance if you find the language in the offer letter hard to understand. It is crucial to ensure that you are not in violation, intentionally or unintentionally.

Employers generally don't take such acts lightly. On top of it, you are currently on their payroll. Don't discuss this with any co-workers (apart from your partner), and seek legal advice from a professional before taking any step.

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Not on the legal aspect of things, but I do not see this working out well with you staying on good terms with your company. If you release the service, they will have essentially lost their edge over their competitors as their competitors can easily solve the problem your company has been paying you to fix.

While you may not be stealing code from the company, you are putting them at a competitive disadvantage by releasing a solution for a problem you would have not known existed if you had not worked for your company.

This is one of those situations where it is difficult to have your cake and eat it too.

If your goal is to make the service successful, I suggest you seek legal advice and quit your company if your legal counsel gives you the green light.

If your goal is to stay on good terms with your company, I suggest you either give up the idea, or offer to give the rights of the project to the company, offering to have them release it as a service.

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    Moreover: the fact that your company is working on it is arguably proprietary information that you are exploiting to the company's detriment. "Exploiting company proprietary information to the company's detriment" is one of those things that can get you in legal trouble all by itself. – Ben Barden Aug 2 '19 at 18:34

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