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Ask HN: Asking to sign an agreement claiming work I do after term of employment

I've been asked to sign a CIIAA agreement having clause saying that the company owns all the work I do (including programs, ideas, technique, etc.) after the term of employment indefinitely, if the work is related to or useful for the company's business.

The manager said this quite common in silicon valley, even though this might not be enforceable. Therefore no one really bothers about it when hiring people/signing contracts. I looked up some agreements I can find on Internet and I can't find such broad claims reaching far beyond term of employment.

Is this common is Silicon Valley?

My worry is If I sign this and my next employer sees this, will they not hire me because they would worry a possible issue with ownership of work I do for them. Even if they don't see this agreement I feel I might end up signing contradicting agreement with my next employer.

22 pointsrobertcheng posted 3 months ago31 Comments
31 Comments:
patio11 said 3 months ago:

In general, you should not solicit from counterparties whether they believe the terms they are offering to you are reasonable or not. Assuming you're a well-compensated professional, which is true of the overwhelming majority of people on HN signing CIIAAs, you can afford to have every one read by a lawyer working for you, and you probably should.

In terms of whether it's a market term or not: continuing to own your work _even after you're separated_ is a market term; _owning work created after you're separated_ is not. There is virtually nothing that could possibly induce me to sign that second clause, for anyone. If you can't distinguish between these two, that's a great argument for having a specialized interpreter of contracts doing this instead of you.

robertcheng said 3 months ago:

I consulted with a lawyer in a different jurisdiction and above was the interpretation of it. i.e. _owning work created after you're separated_.

aey said 3 months ago:

don't sign!

if you are in SV, and you are not at a project where your output is critical to the companies success, you are wasting your time.

gms said 3 months ago:

This is not common at all. What is common is to have such a clause apply to the period of employment but not after.

Please feel comfortable telling your employer to remove it (many people don't know that every contract is negotiable).

robertcheng said 3 months ago:

Employer doesn't want to change it saying it's common and everyone signed it.

muzani said 3 months ago:

I've signed contracts where they say it's common, and regret it every time. This is a massive red flag.

It doesn't necessarily mean that they plan to screw you. But it certainly means they don't trust you, and it brings all the downsides of lack of trust.

It also means that they're effectively filtering out talent, so your colleagues are unlikely to be very good.

anigbrowl said 3 months ago:

That's what people always say to get you to sign a shitty contract. Consider not taking the job because it sounds like the kind of company that defaults to fucking over the employees in any kind of difficult situation.

Chazprime said 3 months ago:

I wouldn't sign it. This is not common at all, and while it's probably not enforceable, you don't want to chance it. It's interesting that they have told you that this is common in Silicon Valley because California has restrictions on requiring employees to assign rights to work created on their own time.

caseyf7 said 3 months ago:

This is not standard. If you still want the job, try the following: print it, cross out the parts you don’t like, initial the changes, sign it and send back the scanned pdf. Most of the time HR doesn’t notice or care as long as they can check it off their list.

tiredyam said 3 months ago:

Does this work?

was_boring said 3 months ago:

If the counter party accepts it then it is the contract. You can do this with any contract, to include phone carriers and credit card companies.

NotPaidToPost said 3 months ago:

Sometimes... If the person does not properly check the document or if they don't actually seriously care about that clause.

JamesBarney said 3 months ago:

This clause is abusive unless they're writing you a seven figure check. And companied that are abusive in some ways tend to be abusive in other ways.

If you have any other option I would take the other option. If you have no other options I would redline it and send it back. But whatever you do do not sign that clause.

amluto said 3 months ago:

It’s abusive, full stop.

One could mess with the employer: offer an amendment where they own your work forever, but they pay you, forever, for your time, at whatever rate you set. :)

steve_taylor said 3 months ago:

The employer hasn’t accepted your terms because you haven’t walked away from the deal. Cut off all communication and look elsewhere. If they want you enough to withdraw those nasty clauses, they’ll contact you.

gms said 3 months ago:

I agree with the other comrade who commented. Avoid joining this employer if you can.

docker_up said 3 months ago:

Don't join. You will be making a huge mistake if you do.

gesman said 3 months ago:

"This is (typical|common|standard)" - is a typical practice to coerce/mislead people to sign one-sided contracts.

Don't do that. Kudos to you for reading the contract and questioning it's validity.

jamieadams said 3 months ago:

It's not clear to me exactly what they are asking.

Are they saying that anything you create on company time belongs to them indefiniely? That's fairly commmon in the UK and I don't have any stong feelings about it.

Are they saying that anything you create after you leave belongs to them? That's definitely not OK, but it's not clear that's what they are saying.

docker_up said 3 months ago:

I've been in Silicon Valley for ~25 years and held 10 jobs.

I've never seen this before and I would NEVER ever sign something like this.

This sounds like indentured servitude. The manager is lying to you when she says that it's "common". Run away from this company, fast. No job is worth signing an indefinite contract like that.

JamesBarney said 3 months ago:

One thing no one else is mentioned is that what is useful or relevant to the business is very ill defined. All future companies for the entirety of your career will take on some unknown risk related to what your previous employers considers relevant.

Companies hate ill defined risk. I run a consulting company and would never hire anyone who had ever signed a contract like this. It's too risky, if you did work for a client and some company I'd never heard of could possibly own that IP that could be company ending for me. If a client even just found out I hired someone who had signed a contract like that it could end a client relationship.

Do not sign this. This could be career crippling.

NotSammyHagar said 3 months ago:

After you quit and/or don't sign the contract, it would be great if you could share the name of this ridiculous company. Public shaming of this kind of action can act as a deterrent.

arthev said 3 months ago:

After employment? Fuck that. They better be prepared to pay out $300K per year indefinitely in that case.

mindcrime said 3 months ago:

Abso-fucking-lutely not. Do NOT sign something like that. Even better, name and shame the fools so that nobody else will be tempted to waste time with them.

shoo said 3 months ago:

Assume the opportunity cost of signing is as you suggest: that you will not be employable in any future role in any field with another company that generates intellectual property. How much does this restriction cost you? Plausibly seven figures. Consider signing if the prospective employer offers you something of comparable value in return for you signing up for this unusual restriction.

wolco said 3 months ago:

You are running the risk of putting yourself in a difficult situation. Red line or consider adding that company must pay 1,000,000 a year to keep this claus intact. They will quickly drop the issue or you should.

NotPaidToPost said 3 months ago:

In addition to that ridiculous clause, do you really want to work for a manager that replies this to your query?

> The manager said this quite common in silicon valley, even though this might not be enforceable

itamarst said 3 months ago:

You might want to start thinking about a new job, because you are working for people who want you to be an indentured servant.

gubsz said 3 months ago:

Name and shame.

actionowl said 3 months ago:

Run!

borplk said 3 months ago:

DONT DO IT