I proposed a BHAG to my employer (whom I've known for years prior to employment) back when I was hired on.

She was ecstatic, but my immediate supervisor was not convinced. It has since been dropped as an idea (not officially, but for all intents and purposes the idea has been phased out of any real plan), and I'd like to pick it up as a personal project.

However, I'm worried about rights and such. I don't want to get far into the BHAG in a personal context and create tension with the company in any way. Knowing that going to my CEO and presenting to her a "request for rights" agreement, or something to that effect, wouldn't necessarily hurt relations, I'm wondering if that's the right thing to do.

Knowing how I work, the project wouldn't interfere with work, but I don't want to bring something up that will make them feel uneasy. On the other hand, I don't want to run into legal/IP battles down the road if I do go ahead and develop the BHAG on my own in the event it actually turns into something.

Obviously this is hinged around the existing relationship with the employer, of which is just fine. We get along on a personal level and a professional level - we also keep them very separated, which keeps the relationship strong to begin with. I just worry about looking like I'm undermining the company in some way - which isn't at all my intention.

How should I approach my employer to get rights to this project? Is this even a good idea in the first place?

  • 1
    Was anything written down? If not I don't there's any need to write stuff down now.
    – Móż
    Aug 30, 2015 at 22:22
  • @Mσᶎ No, and no expenses have been made (including development time). I just want to be sure; I have a decent grasp of IP law but I didn't know if verbally agreeing, at one point in time, that this was a project the company would like to pursue meant anything. Aug 30, 2015 at 22:26
  • if it's all verbal, in the end it would come down to your word against theirs and I don't think they'd get far. The only problem would be if they decided to spend money on lawyers out of sheer vindictiveness. Which might happen if your idea seriously damages their company (you start a web or app version of their primary business that becomes popular, say). Where I am (Australia) I can't imagine even that, let alone the more likely "my unrelated program made me a few tens of thousands of dollars".
    – Móż
    Aug 30, 2015 at 22:30
  • 1
    Are you planning to develop a product while you are employed with this employer (like right now), or will it still be years before you've got anything? If it's right now there are sometimes clauses about products developed while employed at the employer, even if you do them on your own time.
    – Brandin
    Aug 31, 2015 at 5:14
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    If you did any work on this while employed then this is in murkey water. Don't assume they will not want it if it works. Best to ask and see what they are willing to give you without a fight upfront. Sep 1, 2015 at 1:21

1 Answer 1


Talk to your employer and talk to your lawyer.

Draw up the necessary paperwork, sign it and have a company representative (who has authority to bind the company) sign it. Reassure your employer that this is a project you will do only on your own time, on your own equipment, and that it doesn't compete with the company's interests.

As @BillLeeper points out, you could additionally comment that this isn't about you running off to work on this, you just want the option to exercise this should the timing be right to develop it further.

Then do whatever you will with your project, knowing you are appropriately covered.

  • 1
    You could additionally comment that this isn't about you running off to work on this, you just want the option to exercise this should the timing be right to develop it further. Aug 31, 2015 at 14:29

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