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Re: Call for lawyers: GPL Intelectual property protection

Matthew Schlegel <nitehawk@1ststep.net> writes:

> I'm starting at Microsoft on monday (its just for the money, no flames please)
> as a contractor.  Part of the contract I had to sign included the following
> clause:
> <Quote>
> 12.  All ideas, inventions, creations, developments or improvements
> (collectively "ideas") conceived by Employee, alone or with others, while
> employed by the Company, whether or not during working hours, that are within
> the scope of the Company's or Client's business or that relate to any of the
> Company's or Client's work or projects are the exclusive property of the
> Company or Client, as the case my be, all of the Employee's right, title and
> interest in and to all such Ideas, and to any letters Patent, Copyrights and
> applications therefore in all countries.  

What I suggest you do is get disclaimers for each specific non-MS project
signed by your supervisor, or whoever is responsible for licensing issues for
your department. This is the same paperwork that the FSF would require you to
get from them before any contributions to FSF projects, and it generally isn't
hard to convince people to sign them for specific projects. In fact I wouldn't
be surprised if you found an MS manager who was famliar with them.

More information including suggestions on who to speak to and what to say are
at: http://egcs.cygnus.com/contribute.html

Here's the excerpt dealing with the simplest case of employee disclaimers
covering a specific project:

If you are employed to do programming (even at a university), or have
made an agreement with your employer or school saying it owns programs
you write, then we also need a signed disclaimer from your employer
or school.

This disclaimer should be signed by a vice president or general
manager of the company.  If you can't get at them, anyone else
authorized to license software produced there will do.  Here is a
sample wording:

  Digital Stimulation Corporation hereby disclaims all copyright
  interest in the changes and enhancements made by Hugh Heffner to the
  program "seduce" (the "Program").

  Digital Stimulation Corporation affirms that it has no other
  intellectual property interest that would undermine this release, or
  the use of the Program, and will do nothing to undermine it in the

  <signature of Ty Coon>, 1 April 1987
  Ty Coon, President of Vice, Digital Stimulation Corp.

(If your employer says they do have an intellectual property claim
that could conflict with the use of the program, then please put me in
touch with a suitable representative of the company, so that we can
negotiate what to do about it.)

IMPORTANT: When you talk to your employer, *no matter what
instructions they have given you*, don't fail to show them the sample
disclaimer above, or a disclaimer with the details filled in for your
specific case. Companies are usually willing to sign a disclaimer
without any fuss. If you make your request less specific, you may open
Pandora's box and cause a long and unnecessary delay.


PS: I'm sorry for the lack of timeliness, I'm going through old mail and
didn't see a complete response to this post.

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