How enforceable are Invention Disclosure clauses in California employment contracts?

Invention disclosure clauses are enforceable as long as California Labor Code § 2870 isn’t applicable. Generally, California protects people like you pursuant to such provision. Under § 2870, an invention developed entirely on an employee’s own free time without the use of the employer’s equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information may not be claimed as company’s property unless they relate to the employer’s business. Based on the few facts provided in your question, it appears your employer has no claim to your invention if it is truly “non-competitive” against your current employer.

An invention disclosure clause covering outside inventions must not be too broad as that could potentially nullify the agreement. The language from your agreement may be determined to be overly broad, but an attorney who is aware of all the facts would be the best to make that assessment.

If you are considered an independent contractor then you have an even greater argument that your invention is indeed yours. However, an independent contractor will be treated the same as an employee if such contractor uses the employer’s resources – a principle called “shop rights.”

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