I want to run a tech start-up, so I need to work with people to develop a product.

The output of product development would lead to some papers and patents.

My concern is, how can I treat with team members that they won't want to claim about the intellectual property in the future?

How do big tech companies handle these types of cases? Why should the output of the R&D staff of a company belong to the company?

I also appreciate any book recommendations.

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    Do you have a lawyer to assist you with drafting employment/contracting contracts? IP and patent ownership should be addressed in the contracts that are signed between the company and its employees/contractors. – Ramon Snir Sep 5 '20 at 16:16
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    Wait, you don't have enough money for a lawyer? Don't start a company then. Also VTC as what you need is legal advice. – Tymoteusz Paul Sep 5 '20 at 16:26
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    I don't know about all countries, but in Europe and the US, you should always sign a contract. Even for a startup. Without a contract, you will be exposed to many liabilities, the most common one is exactly what you fear - that the students will claim that the intellectual property is partially theirs. If you can't afford a lawyer (it might be cheaper than you think), you should at least find a sample contract from your country that seems relevant. Make sure that it addresses IP ownership. It's better than no contract at all. – Ramon Snir Sep 5 '20 at 16:27
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    @RamonSnir It doesn't matter what contract you have if you don't have the money to enforce it, especially IP theft cases are pretty expensive. – Tymoteusz Paul Sep 5 '20 at 16:28
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    @MENG Start-ups can, and should, have contracts with their employees that cover intellectual property. I signed one when I joined a start-up in 1983, so it is not a new idea. Do not attempt to file a patent application without expert advice. The students would be the inventors, and your business the assignee. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 5 '20 at 17:26

First of all, before you start the company you are thinking about you need to get professional advice. You need a better understanding of these issues related to your questions.

I will however address one non-legal issue: while legal issues are involved in this topic, the fundamental question your are asking can be answered.

Why should the output of the R&D staff of a company belong to the company?

The company is taking the risks involved in this process. They are providing pay while the R&D staff works on the project. The company is providing benefits. They are renting space for the lab. They are buying computers and software. They are buying lab equipment, and supplies. They are doing this for months or even years, even if the idea doesn't work has they hoped for.

You ask in a comment:

So, how do MIT and Stanford students run start-ups based on their research works?

They do so after negotiating an agreement with their university. When somebody pays for the R&D they get some level of ownership. That means if the funding is coming from a government agency, or from the University that funding organization may have some right to the IP. It depends on the terms of the agreement that is signed in advance.


Companies pay the inventor cash. Some companies pay small amounts in the 4 figure range. Others (I saw first hand) were paying six figures 20 years ago. This was above and beyond the six figure salary and top of the line perks like effectively unlimited PTO (even if officially it was X months).

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