Intellectual Property Rights

Hi, I've created a database in my own time using my own resources for my current employer a couple of years ago but didn't document any arrangements with my boss at the time.  He has since left the business.  

Another company is interested in purchasing the database subject to receiving evidence from my employer stating that the software is my intellectual property.  

In order to help avoid any stand off with my employer, is there any other way of proving intellectual property by e.g. re-designing the application to incorporate the other company formats?  In this example, what is deemed to be a significant enough change to help appease any concerns from all parties?
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Robert ShermanOwnerCommented:
This is not legal advice, you should seek out a lawyer.   However, some things to consider would be what position your former boss held when you made the verbal agreement with him.   Was he in a position to make such an agreement official with the company?  Did he have any ownership interest in the company at all?  Is he still reachable and would he back up your statements?

If you do approach the business owner first, might I suggest feeling the situation out lightly at first... bring up the subject of the database, comment on how the project interested you which is why you developed it outside of your normal work hours after discussing it with (insert your former boss' name here).   Then I'd say something like "I'm interested in developing it further for my own interests and want to make sure there won't be any problems with my doing that."   They might just give you the "do whatever you want, we don't care" answer, or they may immediately try to claim ownership.  Either way, it would give you a feeling for what their stance is going to be without putting too much out there.  The point would be to avoid any mention of intent to license it out to other companies for your own gain, and keep it more about personal interest and ownership at this point.

Going the straight legal route, based on what you've stated above, most attorneys will probably tell you it's going to be considered a work made for hire and that you shouldn't bother.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You need a lawyer. You did not document your rights and the parties then have gone. It is unlikely the new parties will give you what they may think is their property. Seek good legal advice.

I agree with John, this is a legal matter.  I have been through this several times and have a friend that is a lawyer that advises me.  From my experience (and this is not to be considered legal advice), this appears to be "work for hire" since you were employed and doing the work for your employer.  Your employer (in my non-legal opinion) owns the  software.

However, have you tried talking to your current employer?  I created software for a hospice for a period of three years and when it was done, asked the ownership if they would like to partner up and sell it to other hospices.

They said "No, we have hospices to run.  If you want to sell it, go ahead"  That was it, I filed a copyright, setup my website and sold the software for a couple years.  I ended up not liking the life of a developer/reseller so I sold the software as a company (with existing customers, copyright and trademark, website and all code) to a software company.

I would approach the business owner first.  If you want to get a lawyer and try to prove it is your work and not a "work for hire", you will most likely create a stand-off.
padrepio2Author Commented:
Having taken on board your sound advice, I've approached my employer and initial reaction was positive.  Thank you
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