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Consider the Continuing Rights of Departing Software Developers

Software which a developer creates can be modified and incorporated into a variety of new uses and applications. Developers, and the companies that hire them, should understand this when contracting for a developer’s service, or determining rights when a developer leaves the company. A company generally owns its employees’ creations, but when the software developer is an independent contractor or a departing principal, the parties should carefully address future rights in all evolving software. Agreeing to appropriate compensation is also critical. The parties should consider what rights the developer will retain – and/or be compensated for -- when the company creates modifications, new releases, derivative works or merely renames existing products. Also consider the parties’ rights if the company sells entirely new products under the brand the developer helped create. One way to state which new releases the developer should benefit from is if the company’s new product would, without a license, be infringing on any part of what the developer created.