I’m doing an intership in pharmaceutical company. I have made a Linux shell script which uses some open source tools to turn a some time-consuming copy and paste work into a couple of seconds of automated work.

This script was my own idea and I made it on my personal computer in my personal time.

I have presented it to my bosses and they are really interested in implementing a Linux system in the department to use my script. There’s a chance I might get employed but the decision depends on an upper boss.

I wonder whether my script is patentable or if there is some other way of protecting it in the European Community.

I have been working so hard to develop it and the script is really useful for the daily work which is carried out there. I don’t want the company to make use of it at 0 cost: my long internship has already been free.

Can I protect it somehow? I fear I cant due to the use of other open source applications and the Linux license itself.

  • I edited the part where I thought you had done the script on company time, feel free to rollback or change the edit if you don't like it. I just edited it because I think others might understand it the way I did and not the way you meant it.
    – user18033
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


Edit: I thought OP was asking about a script developed on company time. As that is not the case, some parts of the answer are referencing this wrong. Just replace those in your mind with - It's almost certain that script belongs to you and not the company, unless some regulation explicitly states that you may not work on company related topics at home, which I would not expect.

You are asking about at least three completly different topics here, so firstly, let me split that up.

I wonder if my script is patentable or it can be protected somehow in European Comunity.

I don't want to diminish your work, but I'd say, the chances are bad. In principle, the combination of known components can be patentable, but if it is the pure implementation of a known method, - meaning just the automation of something done exactly (or almost exactly) the same way by hand - in most cases, that won't be enough. The special case could be answered only by a patent attorney. BUT:

I dont want the company to make use of it at 0 cost, my long intership has already been free.

This depends on the company's regulations, on the country you are in and on your contract. You are working for the company, so what you develop on company time for the company is normally not yours or not only yours. Many companies have policies regarding inventions of employees. I don't know about yours of course.

What could you do?

Probably, there is some way to file a notice of invention in your company. Then your invention will enter the companies invention process and in the end, they will either tell you that you don't own any rights (you could double check that with an attorney), tell you they don't want to pursue this invention, then you could do that yourself (probably, again) or try to protect it and maybe pay you some royalties for using it.

Tbh, I'd expect a certain kind of arrogant rection from your bosses telling you that it's not that big of a deal etc. etc. At that point you could either leave it or push for filing that notice of invention. It might, however, not end with you and them beeing friends at the end. Note, this is just what I think is most likely if you push it, but you could try asking nicely to see how they react.

As they did not pay you, you might have chances of forbidding them the usage of your script, but if it's not patentable then they could just reimplement it.

Can I protect it somehow? I fear i cant due to the use of other open source applications and linux license itself..

For this you would have to read all those licenses. A patent however protects the method, not the implementation, so patenting something is unrelated to this part. You can patent soemthing which you may not be allowed to use later or where you might not be allowed to actually commercially use the implementation if done in a certain way or with certain software.


You need to find out if the script is patentable, start with reading about patentability, novelty and inventive step and then do your own analysis and/or ask specific questions, I couldn't tell from this question alone.

And you need to find out if what you invent on company time is your property or theirs. again, can't help you, you need to find out - read the regulations for your company, they should be somewhere (intranet?) or ask your boss/coworkers.

Keep in mind, most companies think of an internship as something they do for you, not the other way around, so they might not be amused if you want to forbid them / to pay for what you invented in the time where they paid you with learning from their greatness and teaching you, the little intern and tell you it's not worth that much anyways. (Sarcasm, sorry)

Copyright: your script is protected by copyright, so if there is no regulation (legal or contractual) that says the company owns what you produce, you may forbid them to use the script you wrote. However, they could just have someone else write a similar script.

What I would try: Get hired and see this as proof of your usefullness and forget about it, imho the bridges you might burn and the attorneys fees if they don't cooperate are way worse than what they would pay you in the best case. If you really want, ask really really nicely if they want to pay you for implementing a linux environment and the script and teaching the employees how to use it or ask how they see the question who the script belongs to and tell them that, if the script is useful for them, you would like to get paid for it, that should be something everyone can understand.

  • Thank you for your long answer. I have got the feeling already its not patentable. I think they key point is tjat i have done it enterly on my home, not in work (because they dont have any linux OS) so i though they could be a key point. Ye I dont expect they be nice to me, but i dunt want them to make profit of my own idea and work at 0 cost if at the end i dont get employed. I
    – Neuls
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:05
  • Ah sorry, I thought it was on company time. In that case, almost certainly it's yours and only yours, so you don't have to give it to them. You could ask for pay or you could give it to them as a sign of goodwill and hope it helps with getting you employed. The social-limitations I noted above stay in place, but now I think this question qould better fit a t workplace.SE as I think it doesn't matter if or how you protect that script, the question is what are the consequences of asking to get paid for it and how to do it best.
    – user18033
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:12
  • I would only complain about its usage if i dont get emplyoyed ofc. Would what if i have already copied the script in their new linux OS? Would i have rights to ask for it got deleted?
    – Neuls
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:15
  • I'll assume there is no regulation that forbids you to work on company topics on home (there might be in some companies/countries, maybe, I don't know). If not then you may request that, yes, unless you said you would give it to them for free, in that case you would have gifted it to them, which in itself is a valid (ok, probably valid, you can get out of almost everything in some situations, so "probably") legal contract binding you. But keep in mind the impact that would have on your relationship.
    – user18033
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:20
  • That's why I said, ask this on the workplace site, they are good at figuring out emotional-social implications of legally acceptable actions like this.
    – user18033
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:20

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