Launching a startup without loans or savings can be difficult. If you are like many people looking to start a business, you might consider keeping your 9-to-5 as you roll out your company. People often refer to this as “moonlighting.” While moonlighting can seem financially sound, it is important to consider your intellectual property rights before you decide to try it.

Intellectual property conflicts often occur when entrepreneurs begin their business ventures with an approach that goes against their employer’s policies. When moonlighting violates employer policy, questions of startup ownership can come into the picture.

Does my startup belong to me or my boss?

This may seem like a silly question, but depending on what you do on your boss’s time, the answer can be in your employer’s favor. You might also find yourself facing legal challenges if you signed anything that says you will not compete with the company you currently work for. Many employers require employees to sign noncompetition agreements that can come into conflict with your startup.

There are a lot of lines your startup has the potential to cross. What kind of business are you running? How are you running your business? Are the resources you are using owned by your employer? The answers to these questions can help determine if you are facing legal risks.

What are my options?

If quitting your day job is unrealistic, there may be other ways to approach the situation. Understanding your employer’s policies and any existing agreements you have with them is essential. Before giving up on your startup dreams, find out what options you may have. Some possibilities include:

  • Talking to your boss about your entrepreneurial goals
  • Keeping employment work separate from startup work
  • Finding a different job where you can avoid competition conflicts

Starting a business is no walk in the park. Figuring out how to financially support yourself while you do it can be even harder. Make sure you think ahead to avoid unnecessary intellectual property pitfalls along the way.