Right now I'm working as a Software Engineer contractor, and I offered my client to become permanent, to give him some security that I won't jump ship in a middle of project (current project is extremely interesting for me).

However once HR department presented me with a contract. HR department and I exchanged emails for a week and scheduled the meeting to discuss the amendments in contract, though I have a feeling the majority of my amendments won't be set in place, some of them relate to "waiving my moral rights regarding copyright and patents" to corporation.

What's the best way in your experience in taking your word back and save maximum face?

P.S. Just to be clear, I do not ask for legal advice, or explain me what the laws are even before you guys asked me where I'm from ;) My question is regarding backing out of contract if my conditions are not met, everything else is just a context.

  • "Permanent" is not really any more permanent than a contract - you can always quit at any time even with a permanent position. If you really want to offer reassurances, consider some type of addendum which specifies penalties for leaving in the middle of a project, in exchange for some form of extra compensation?
    – Bobson
    Feb 4, 2014 at 12:14
  • 2
    as a contractor you where working for hire and as an employee your employer owns what you produce for them. Feb 4, 2014 at 20:11
  • You confuse two different things. See my reply below. 1. Agreeing to negotiate a contract (deal) 2. Agreeing to the terms of the contract (deal)
    – unom
    Feb 5, 2014 at 10:51
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    Good plan, OP. The company will definitely let you keep your "moral rights" so you can sue them over ownership of a patent they own whenever it suits you Feb 5, 2014 at 16:04

6 Answers 6


Taking your word back may not be the best way to see this. I'd see this more as you couldn't agree on terms for you to work as permanent and thus want to remain on contract for this project. The key point here is to consider which points are a big enough deal that you'll stay as a contractor and not transition.

Saving face here is likely done best by knowing which terms you aren't going to change and thus if there isn't an agreement, what is the best way to move forward? Be professional in your communication and don't get emotional about this issue which shouldn't be a big deal that the idea didn't pan out as planned.

  • In my question I've listed only one point, there is other, which I'm willing to negotiate but this one is something I'm not considering to back down. If they can't meet it I will have to remain as a contractor, and question I'm asking assumes the worst scenario. Feb 3, 2014 at 22:19
  • @nirth - I think if you explain that to them they will understand. They may not like it but they will understand, even if they pretend not to. Feb 3, 2014 at 22:41
  • @Chad Yeah thanks, I think so too, bit surprised that no one had similar case. Though night is young. Feb 3, 2014 at 22:56
  • @nirth I think you'll find that what you object to is already part of your contracter agreement. You keep saying that you are not asking for legal advice, but in fact you are because which contract are you backing out of? You either have a contract or you don't.
    – JamesRyan
    Feb 4, 2014 at 12:46


Until you sign a contract, you've really only made an "agreement to negotiate". This phase is just a green-light for your manager to get the ball rolling with HR. Someone's got to generate the contract or offer letter.

I think Wesley Long's right about what you're seeing in the paperwork as far as copyrights and patents are concerned. This is common language and though it's explicitly set forth in legal statute just about everywhere, it's always good for a business to make it known and obvious to potential employees. The only time I'd have a concern is if the employer wants to hold on to copyrightable and patentable work product of yours that occurs when you are NOT at work -- that's a red flag. But if you're at work, and getting paid to create, the generally accepted approach is (a) patents are in your name, but rights are assigned to the company and (b) copyrights belong to the company. I'm not an attorney, and this does not constitute legal advice.

As far as backing out is concerned, if it comes down to it you may have to let them know that you "respectfully" decline the offer. There will be no hard feelings unless you show up to work with a shotgun. This kind of thing happens all of the time. Depending on how much work there is to go around, and your relationship with your manager, you might want to update your resume.

  • Just to be clear: you mean a metaphorical shotgun, right ? Feb 8, 2014 at 20:19

I think you need to get a lawyer to review your (proposed) contract.

"Moral Rights" are your rights of copyright and such. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Rights

Any work done as an employee is, by definition, "Work for Hire" and all intellectual property rights are implicitly assigned to the employer. This employer is just making the assignment explicit. Remember, the law uses words as they were originally intended, not what they have come to mean currently.

I think you are getting worried about things you don't understand.

  • @nirth: Offensive vs. Defensive patent strategy: jdsupra.com/legalnews/… - Informational only. Does not constitute legal advice. Feb 3, 2014 at 22:27
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    @WesleyLong I'm not really asking about legal advice, and you didn't provide me any just for the record. Let's abstract that issue, there is a clause in contract (any clause) that I'm not willing to back down on. What's the best way to save my face and back down on my promise to go permanent, that's my question, in last paragraph, I can read my contracts on my own and decide what they mean. Feb 3, 2014 at 22:29
  • @keshlam, Ӎσᶎ Thanks a lot guys for commenting, but again, I'm not asking for helping in resolving what my contract means, or what I should or shouldn't do, question is the sentence that ends with question mark in my original post. Feb 4, 2014 at 15:52
  • ****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details.
    – jmort253
    Feb 8, 2014 at 1:59

I've encountered this in the past.

The situation was that i requestion for certain perks if they would like to sign me on as a permanent staff. They verbally promised these perks i mentioned and after exchanging emails with the HR staff and the boss, i agreed that i would take the job and schedule a meeting with them.

Everything changed however when we meet, after going through the contract, i noticed than majority of what i wanted is not written. I asked about these and they told me at the moment they are not able to place it in the contract, but it is a 'confirmed' thing that i would get it.

The thing is always get things down in black and white. We ended up in a heated debate, them saying that they have already booked me for project and me saying i needed black&white..

I ended up rejecting the proposal and found a better one elsewhere.

Nothing to be ashamed of. Giving face/ giving in will only make you miserable and causes regret later on.


You confuse two different things.

1. Agreeing to negotiate a contract (deal)

2. Agreeing to the terms of the contract (deal)

Most people do a "simple" yes promise to the employer which means that they will come to the office and do the work. Most corporations require a very strict contract which involves much more than just you doing that you promised.

1. First, when he asked you to stay permanently, did he present all the details of the contract?! No. So it is impossible for you to agree to something which you were unaware of.

2. Which brings us to the HR step in which they can present the contract of any form or shape. If you negotiate the terms of the contract, and negotiations break down you are not at fault. It is very common to take advantage of employees who managed "to make a promise" and impose tougher terms. Don't feel guilty! Guilt is the ultimate weapon here. You agreed (in broad terms), BUT NOT TO THIS SPECIFICALLY.

Corporations do this a lot. This IP thing is not new. Essentially they own what you create inside the company. This is a good thing if they have a team of brilliant people already there and company culture, it can mean you learn a whole lot from them and in exchange your ideas are molded by the group. (Apple comes to mind)

However if you are going to a company because you have ideas and you already have germinating IP inside your head, well it's a very bad idea to give this IP to them. Most of the time you'll create and develop ideas alone, especially in software, and then the company owns them. You should do this if they give you tremendous perks, and long term company stock and so forth. They will still "make a huge profit" out of your ideas but you have to make sure you take your cut. You need a professional to write this up and negotiate for you.

The conclusion is this:

Contracts are made between honest people.

Never sign a contract with someone you don't trust, no matter how good it sounds and how many people tell you it's iron clad.

Dishonest people will take the time to create the circumstance to f*ck you up. The contract is just there to tell them what not to do. If they have the time and resources they will pursue all the other means, believe me, there are many.

Also you have to realize that the contract can contain only foreseeable circumstances. Last time I checked, things nobody thinks about, do happen.

  • I like this answer a lot. The last paragraph is particularly important to keep in mind. May 28, 2015 at 18:54

Get your client involved in the problem now instead of waiting until you're sure that you won't be signing the contract. Let him know that you are in communication with HR to negotiate the contract and that you've got some concerns over whatever section is bothering you.

If you don't want him to know the details, then just let him know in general terms that there may be hang-ups. This way, he can talk with HR on your behalf. If it's needed, and if you end up continuing as a contractor instead of going permanent, he won't be caught off guard by your decision. Additionally, you won't feel the need to justify the decision because he already knows your reasons.

  • this post is rather hard to read (wall of text). Would you mind editing it into a better shape?
    – gnat
    Feb 4, 2014 at 19:50

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