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Yudhisthira

What would you do in this scenario

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Hi All,

 

Let's say you are working as a teacher in a high school, and you write some software to help automate some of your tasks. The people in your department also use this software as it saves a significant amount of time. Now you decide to leave the profession to start your own software company. What would you do with the software you developed ? Assume there's no clause in your contract to say any software that is developed is property of the company regardless of where it was made. Do you own the IP of said software ? Is it OK to sell it back to the school ? If so how do you go about calculating a fair price for what you have developed ? 

 

Thanks for your time

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Let's say you are working as a teacher in a high school, and you write some software to help automate some of your tasks. The people in your department also use this software as it saves a significant amount of time. Now you decide to leave the profession to start your own software company. What would you do with the software you developed ? Assume there's no clause in your contract to say any software that is developed is property of the company regardless of where it was made. Do you own the IP of said software ? Is it OK to sell it back to the school ? If so how do you go about calculating a fair price for what you have developed ? 

It depends on where you are in the world, but generally: if you wrote it during work hours, your employer owns the IP.

And sometimes in stupid jurisdictions: if you wrote it outside of work hours but it relates to your job, your employer still owns the IP.

 

If you created it outside of work hours, you're pretty safe. If you had a contract saying that you were developing work-related products while working there (basically: that you had a second job, which happens to be for a sole-proprietor/yourself), and that you own them, then you'd be much more safe.

 

As for a fair price - multiply the amount of time spent on it by the hourly rate you'd charge when contracting.

For a smart price - find out how much they'd be willing to pay for this kind of software and charge exactly that amount :P

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Here's an anecdote which your situation reminded me of; I hope it's insightful to you and others:

About 16 years ago, I worked in a school as an IT technician, basically network administration and mundane tasks.

I was a much younger and niave person.

There was one common task that always irked me. A teacher would come to the IT office and ask for us to disable Internet access temporarily for a disruptive student.

We would do this by changing their user group in active directory, this would take up to 30 minutes to sync across the domain forest and then same again when it was removed, in short it was ineffective as the student could still disrupt the lesson for 30 mins and the student would then be locked out of Internet for half the next lesson too.

So I pointed this out to my boss. He basically told me there was no way to improve it and that was that, and he'd been telling the teachers and other staff this for years.

I wrote my own Web app in my own time that would disable Internet access for a workstation instantly, and restore it just as fast, that the staff were able to access without pestering IT. I ran it off my work laptop, which we had full administrative access to and were allowed to take home and essentially do what we wanted with so long as we could still work with it and didn't do anything illegal (obviously).

I did this without speaking to my boss first thinking he'd be really impressed. When a teacher eventually had a small feature request about it he didn't realise it wasn't an official app and went to the IT office, my boss hit the roof because he'd been shown up and embarrassed, some 20 year old upstart had done something behind his back that proved him wrong and made him look stupid.

In hindsight, this was a bad move and immature and I really should have spoken to him first.

Eventually they used it as reason to not renew my contract when it was time for review...

I was going to sell the app after I left, but never got around to it.

So the moral? Make sure your bosses agree with what you're doing, regardless of if you want to take it away and sell it, or not :)

Interestingly, 16 years later I now work as an IT manager and software developer and I am expected to work in this manner. If I spot a problem I write code to fix it, I plan out the fix and work under my own supervision and my boss is happy with the prompt and clever solutions. It's funny to think that I'm now appreciated for what once got me fired ;)

Good luck!

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Assume there's
no clause in your contract to say any software that is developed is property of the
company regardless of where it was made. Do you own the IP of said software ?


Whether you do or not, the school might believe otherwise. You need to talk to a lawyer.

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Was your employer from public or private sector?
Does your official work duties include writing software?
Did you write the software during paid working hours?
Did you uninstall the software before you left?


Hi Brian

All schools in the UK are classed as public sector. I wrote the software during my off hours and my official duties didn't involve writing software. When I left they reimaged my laptop so they wiped the only copy they had... I had my own backup though :)

I'm sure the OP will have different answers :)

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Hi all,

 

Thanks very much for your responses, much appreciated:

 

@Hodgman- that's great at least I have method to negotiate or not.

 

@braindigitalis- Ah that's such a shame your boss reacted that way, glad your efforts are now appreciated. Fortunately my boss knows all about it and is completely on board all of the department use the software. I work in the computer science department so we work quite closely with the network technicians, you guys have a tough job :)

 

@Tom Sloper- It's a school, all of the contract details are around teaching and learning, theres nothing software development in there. 

 

@BrianRhineheart-

Was your employer from public or private sector?
>>Public sector, UK state school
 
Does your official work duties include writing software?
>>No, my duties are all about teaching my subject
 
Did you write the software during paid working hours?
>>Yes I did
 
Did you uninstall the software before you left?
>>No, It's a bunch of python scrips, the user can copy them to their folders and run the program, so there is nothing to uninstall. I don't leave until the summer so I have some time to work out what to do. I was thinking of putting the program on the cloud and charging a yearly subscription which would also cover any maintenance that needs to be done.

 

I'm not looking to get rich, I'm just trying to work out what the fairest thing to do. I built the software and it's saving users a lot of time, If I no longer work there and people are still using my work is it not right that i get compensated for this ? 

 

Thanks again for your inputs

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Does your official work duties include writing software?
>>No, my duties are all about teaching my subject

That's good.

 

Did you uninstall the software before you left?
>>No, It's a bunch of python scripts, the user can copy them to their folders and run the program, so there is nothing to uninstall. I don't leave until the summer so I have some time to work out what to do. I was thinking of putting the program on the cloud and charging a yearly subscription which would also cover any maintenance that needs to be done.

Might be difficult to sell it back to them if they've already got free copies. Offering the service through the cloud sounds like a good idea. You may be able to make a deal with the department of education to provide the service nationally.
 

Did you write the software during paid working hours?
>>[text illegible]

*ahem* So am I'm assuming you wrote it *cough* outside of working hours *cough* off the premises.

 

I'm not looking to get rich, I'm just trying to work out what the fairest thing to do. I built the software and it's saving users a lot of time, If I no longer work there and people are still using my work is it not right that I get compensated for this?

"Do it for the love and the money will follow." is not what I tell people. You need to have a 'good' business plan, and if you love the business plan, then I guess the money will follow.

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I always get a signed document or get it added into the contract when I start at a new company stating I can work on programming projects and make money from them as long as its not in direct competition with my employer( at the moment casino games ). They were totally okay with signing it, I also have written verification in an email. Only 1 company I have worked so far has refused to sign this allowing me to work on things outside of work.

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