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I'm currently working for a startup in Berlin. It's now well established. My contract is pretty standard and it contains two points, which I believe every software/startup company in Germany have on their contracts:

  • Everything that i do in my free time (while being employed) is owned by the company, including any research, software produced ... blah blah blah.
  • I can't work on anything that is related to the field that this company is working in.

Honestly I understood these two points as a protection for the company so that someone doesn't just quit and steal its software and start a similar business and be a competitor. However, I really would like to know if my understanding is simply correct or too naive .... ie if they are really enforced as they are.

My questions are:

  • If I ever build an app/website while being employed and this business became profitable, would the company really ask to own it?! Even if it's totally beyond its specialties? Would the law in Germany stand with the company regarding this? (point one)

  • If I decided to leave my current company, can I work at a different company that work in the same field?! Or am I required to look for jobs in completely different fields?! (point two)

Of course, since they are written in the contract yes they can enforce them if they want, but what I'm interested in, do companies really enforce them as they are?! Or only when a theft happens? i.e an employee becomes a competitor?

closed as off-topic by Lilienthal, jimm101, gnat, mcknz, Thomas Owens Oct 10 '16 at 0:52

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  • 3
    Questions to ask a lawyer. – Lilienthal Oct 9 '16 at 20:18
  • Is your contract in German and English, or German only and you translated yourself? If it's both, does it say the German version is the binding one? You should add the relevant German passage for the free time to the question. We're guessing right now. – simbabque Oct 10 '16 at 13:13
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Oct 11 '16 at 13:24
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Second point first.

I can't work on anything that is related to the field that this company is working in. ... If I decided to leave my current company, can I work at a different company that work in the same field?! Or am I required to look for jobs in completely different fields?! (point two)

The exact wording etc. matters in determining if it is valid, but basically it's allowed (HGB §60). Unless something else is specifically stated in the contract, it ends immediately when you quit.
If is is extended, there are some requirements, notably it's max for two years after quitting and your (former) employer has to pay you at least half of the (former) salary (HGB §74 and §74a).

As for the other point...

Everything that i do in my free time (while being employed) is owned by the company, including any research, software produced

I'm still searching for some definitive law, but when in doubt, it's a contract, and you never should've signed such nonsense. (I've seen it too, and walked away ... I don't regret it :)).
If you want to be on the safe side, quit now.

  • That sounds very broad if you cannot work at all - I suspect that might be against EU law – Neuromancer Apr 28 at 16:06

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