Thank you very much for clarifying. There are various rules which apply to intellectual property rights in the workplace and the general position is that anything which has been created in the course of an employment by an employee will automatically belong to the employer. On the other hand, if they were a contractor, rather than an employee, they will retain the IP rights.
Please refer to this very good and detailed guide on these rights:
For the above to apply, the maters under dispute must actually be subject to IP rights in the first place. See the start of the article for a definition of what can be covered:
Intellectual property (IP) refers to the collection of rights which protect creations of the mind, for example inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, names, music and images. They are broadly divided into the following categories: patents for inventions, trade marks for names, registered and unregistered design rights for industrial designs; and copyright which covers artistic and literary works (including software) films, music, and ancillary rights including performance and rental rights.
An idea, will not on its own be subject to IP protection. Things associated to it, such as designs, images, a patent, etc may be protected, but the idea itself will not, as it is not protected under IP laws.
So all the employer can try and do is claim IP rights on things which are subject to IP protection and which you created during the course of your employment with them. Anything else will not be subject to this and they will unlikely be able to lay their hands on.
Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand. If anything remains unclear, I will be more than happy to clarify it for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.