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I am new to my current company, but have 20 years with other companies. I am considering presenting some topics to my co-workers, but I think I'd like to share the same concepts with the rest of the world too.

I have two different paths I'm considering:

  1. Create the presentations as a company asset: I could do it during work, or on work resources, then consider it a company asset. If I do this, then I would like to also recreate similar slides on my own website (on my own time and with my own resources), I still may end up with questions of proper use of company intellectual property.

  2. Create the presentations as my own asset on my own website: I would create the presentations on my home computer using home software and documentation on my own time. Once I've created the presentations, I'd publish them to my own personal website, and at some point in the future, present the topics at work too (maybe as a special monthly "lunch and learn" topics)

My company discourages us from publishing our company intellectual property without going through lawyers and other review boards. But, in this case, it wouldn't be corporate intellectual property, it would be material acquired from my school/life/prior-employer experiences, and artifacts created on my own time.

I suspect some of you will post "consult a lawyer", so I'll preempt that by saying I'm not afraid of hiring a personal lawyer to review my corporate policies, and my current plan is to consult a lawyer before I proceed. But I'm interested to hear what insights this community has, and experiences with independent publishing while employed, then using those public publications in the workplace.

Here are some potential conflict scenerios for this:

  1. Adjunct Professor at night, who has a day job in industry
  2. Technical blogger, who works in the same industry they're blogging about
  3. Online Learning teacher, who makes coursework for Udemy or Coursera
  4. Professional who joins a professional society on their own and publishes
  5. Developer who posts on StackOverflow at night, but programs in the same language during the day
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    I think you'll find the insights are "consult a lawyer" as it's company specific. – Jane S Feb 29 '16 at 2:49
  • Does the company already have a lunch and learn or do you want to launch a a lunch and learn so you can showcase yourself? – paparazzo Feb 29 '16 at 11:29
  • As usual, an ill-defined question got answers that all answer something different. The only on-topic question I see here is "Can I use company time to work on material that I'd also use privately?", but I'm not even sure that's what you'd want to do. You seem be to asking for personal experiences and opinions which is just not what this site is for. – Lilienthal Feb 29 '16 at 14:14
  • @Lilienthal - I'd appreciate any advice from you on how to re-word the question to make it valuable for others coming here with similar situations. What about someone who's an adjunct professor at night? If my day job overlaps at all with what I may teach at night, this same potential issue of keeping IP "clean" exists. I'm trying to establish learning materials on my own time at home, that also may be interesting to help my peers at work. It's not a quesiton of how to get my employer to let me reuse a work asset, it's knowledge I acquired long before I became an emplyee. – Baronz Feb 29 '16 at 14:36
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    I think the question is quite precise and on-topic. Only the "potential conflict scenerios" part is a bit too broad. – sleske Mar 1 '16 at 8:31
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For large projects (like a book) the other answers are spot-on: This will probably have to go via a lawyer. However, for a short presentation, you may be able to avoid the hassle.

The situation of presenting material inside and outside of a company is not that uncommon; most people presenting at conferences present things that come from their work, and that they probably talked about at work previously.

The way I have seen this handled at my workplaces is:

You write a brief outline of what you would like to present (a few sentences), and ask your supervisor. What you need to ask is:

  • I'd like to do a presentation / talk on subject X. Is there interest in me doing this?
  • I'm planning on spending about x hours of work time to prepare the material. Is that appropriate?
  • I'd like to also present the material at a conference / user group meeting / gathering of friends / write an article. I'll remove any company-specific information. Is there any concern?

If your supervisor signs off on it, you should be fine. If not, then it's the lawyer route, or nothing.


Finally, note that if you create the material on company time and/or at the request of your superviser, in most jurisdictions the copyright / usage rights for it will be with your employer. That means that you will require explicit permission every time you use it elsewhere (hold a talk, publish an article).

That may or may not be an issue in practice (maybe your employer does not care), but if you want full control of your material, create it on your own time, without company resources, and clearly communicate that to your employer.

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If you're presenting something at a company "lunch and learn" or similar, I'd expect that the company is going to want full rights to redistribute, modify or whatever else the stuff you present: maybe it would be of interest to some people who couldn't make the lunch or the like.

If you're coming in and saying the material you're presenting is your personal copyright and I have only limited rights to it, I'm going to have to get the company lawyers involved and that's going to cost real money. At that point, I'm just going to tell you "don't bother" as what you're presenting almost certainly isn't worth the time and money involved. Just create the stuff on company time - it's going to be easier for everyone.

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Legality aside you asked for experience, here's mine.

I have a bunch of stuff I produced in my own time and on my own resources, when I worked for others and even now with clients. If the topic comes up I direct them to my website. If someone in authority wants to organise something more, like a presentation, then fine. I don't try and organise anything myself unless specifically asked.

I now have software I produced in use in 11 govt departments here as well as a big chunk of schools in two countries ( I actually think it's a standard install for all machines in all govt schools in one country) and a big chunk of the public. My work sparked interest in other words, but I let it speak for itself rather than push it on people however mildly.

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The answer will depend, at a minimum, on two pieces of information you haven't given:

  1. What type of agreements have you signed, not just with your current employer, but with past employers? You may have signed away rights to any intellectual property you create during the time you are employed, not while you are on the clock. Your current employer didn't inherit this intellectual property when you joined, but someone else may own it (and not even know it). This is only likely to even be noticed if you are now working for a competitor.
  2. What is the nature of the material? Is this novel, inventive material, or stuff that you could find on the web and elsewhere, even if you've learned it from your own experiences?

The first addresses claims you may have to the material, the second addresses interests you or your employers may have in protecting the material.

In general, you can be 100% within your rights, and that will not prevent your current employer from suing you, issuing a cease-and-desist, etc.--at least in the US. Why? Because the bar for doing such things is incredibly low, and the cost to a person is annoyingly high relative to the cost to a corporation. So your best bet is to know the answers to above, so you know your rights, and then negotiate from a position a strength.

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