Some large companies often require their employees to sign a confidentiality agreement or ownership agreement that requires the employee to disclose all inventions that have been written, designed or reduced up to one year after the end of staff employment. Some of these agreements also provide that such inventions are supposed to be owned by the former employer and that this presumption can only be overcome if the worker can prove that the invention is eligible for protection under the California Laboratory Code 2870. To cover this burden, the worker must demonstrate that the invention (1) was fully developed at its own time, without using the employer`s equipment, supplies, facilities or business secrets; (2) do not refer, at the time of conception or reduction, to the practice of the employer or to the actual or proven research or development expected or result from the worker`s work for the employer. See California Labor Code 2870 (a). Legally enforceable confidentiality agreements should contain some important provisions. First, they should clearly identify the parties to the agreement, including the employer, the worker and other parties or individuals involved. Second, the agreement should specify the duration of its implementation. The time frame for an agreement must be reasonable and the courts will generally not respect an excessive period, such as 50 years or more. Try to avoid the use of unlimited periods, unless you plan to make trade secrets. If you have any doubts, seek the advice of a legal expert to help you. However, California courts generally find that these provisions, if they go beyond the end of employment, are considered “an inappropriate trade restriction, unless they refer to ideas and concepts based on trade secrets or confidential information” of the former employer. Armorlite Lens Co.
Campbell, 340 F.Supp. 273, 275 (S.D. Cal. 1972). Therefore, despite the fact that many confidential information agreements require workers to disclose and attribute inventions developed after the termination of their employment relationship, these agreements are applied only to the extent that it can be proven that the employees` invention is justified or relates to trade secrets or confidential information of their former employer. Unlike non-competitors, which are rarely applicable, confidentiality agreements, which are properly developed, are generally applicable. It is therefore important that any staff member who receives a confidentiality agreement reads it carefully. If the employee has any doubts or concerns, the employee should invest between $99 and $300 to verify the confidentiality agreement and explain it through a lawyer.
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