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Can I steal from my boss to start my business?

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nofraud-sign.jpgWe had some interesting discussions today with some people about intellectual property. We have coached many people out of their corporate jobs into the self-employed freedom of being a business owner.

During this transition phase people begin to work on their future businesses and often use their employers time and resources to begin to build their client base and business connections.

One EI member was hoping to be able to use some of the products and contacts they had developed during their stay at their employer as product and resources for their future business. This is a huge no-no and is illegal to steal content, contacts and material from your employer.

The law says that all material or product or contacts developed whilst in the employ or under contract by an employer belongs to that business. It cannot be used for profit elsewhere. This includes tools, machinery, equipment, software, contacts, content, intellectual property or anything else that you may think is free to take home. Written permission is required to use any such material.

Read through your employment contract and read any other contracts that it may refer to such as the employee’s guidelines, constitutions or company legislations. Also remember that the general labour law of the country covers anything omitted in the specific agreements you may sign.

So if you are thinking about using your list of current clients or ‘spare’ tools lying around at work to start your own business think again. This is theft and could land you in hot water. If in doubt contact a lawyer for advice.

Bruce Wade is a survivor of the corporate IT world, having spent 20 years in various computer related fields. Bruce graduated into the world of self-employment and through his own company and time at various NPOs developed a passion for helping others develop and build their own businesses. The Entrepreneur Incubator was launched out of HEP in August 2008 to address the dire need to hatch and develop small business in southern Africa.

Copyright (c) 2016, the credited author
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