| Journal of Law, Economics & Organization
Start-ups, Spin-offs, and Internal Projects
We examine the incentive problem confronting a firm and employee when the employee privately discovers a significant invention and faces a choice between keeping the invention private and leaving the firm to form a new company (start-up), or transferring knowledge and attempting to gain compensation from the firm (spin-off). We focus on inventions that require little start-up capital and for which property rights are either missing or very weak. In such settings, the employee will sometimes form a new company even though joint profits would have been greater had the invention been developed with the original firm. We also identify when the firm has an incentive to pay a substantial sum to the employee via a spin-off, thereby deterring a start-up. Finally, the basic analysis is applied to examine several issues including specific versus general innovations, trade secret law, and legal "shop rights."
Keywords: Business Startups;
Motivation and Incentives;
Innovation and Invention;
Compensation and Benefits;