The Ethics Coach Tackles Thorny Issues of Ownership and If Pay-for-Play Is Ever OK Our resident ethics coach tackles your tricky ethical dilemmas, such as is 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' ever an acceptable business practice?
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Q: I helped develop and brand an app while working at my current company. I see more potential for the app than my company does and would like to take ownership of the brand for a new company I'm launching. I had a conversation with my employers about the subject, and they don't seem interested in turning the app over to me. Can I patent the idea on my own?
A: You fell for the product you were paid to create, but--no matter your vision--it's spoken for. If your employers are open to further discussions, try to find a mutually beneficial solution. If they won't sell the product to you outright, discuss ways you can partner after you leave. But if they say no, that's where it ends.