If the OpenDS bylaws had said STEWARD or TRUSTEE & not OWNER, then Sun wouldn't have a claim...
If the Open Source Community wishes to ensure that commercial companies don't usurp their employees' positions as representatives on Open Source projects, then the community should NOT USE THE TERM OWNER IN THEIR BYLAWS when the people are in fact holding positions as STEWARD, TRUSTEE, GUARDIAN...take your pick.
If the OpenSource Communities don't want to play in a world that includes BUSINESS controlling the landscape...then the OpenSource project players should not voice or signaturely endorse the use of any BUSINESS TERMS or CONTEMPORARY BUSINESS LEGAL CONCEPTS that can end up in legal documents adversely affecting the project!
In fact, the word "King" comes to mind as a better choice than owner. How much power would Sun have if the OpenDS bylaws said: "The King is Steward over the Programmer Peoples. The King is Trustee over the properties created by the Peoples. The King reserves the right to give policy decision making authority to another Knight, then that Knight becomes King".
If the former Sun employee was merely Steward or Trustee, then Sun would not have any claim to Ownership. As it stands, Sun does in fact retain OWNERSHIP of any claims that an employee might have as OWNER if they obtained it on BUSINESS TIME in the COURSE OF BEING EMPLOYED WITHIN SUN'S BUSINESS...even if they are given to the employee by another organization. Any organization! Even the Queen of England!
If a Sun employee were visiting the Queen of England and she Knighted him and gave him a sword & coin-filled cash box for writing JAVA for JESTERS...the sword & cash belong to Sun.
If the Queen made the Knighted Sun employee STEWARD of the SWORD and TRUSTEE for the DISTRIBUTION of the ROYAL CASH Sun wouldn't have a leg to stand on.
As far as the alledged threats, it depends on how it was presented. I'm betting that the managers said something like this to the employee:
"We request that you release any personal ownership claim you have on OpenDS & allow the transfer any held Owner position to an active employee of Sun as a matter of the Business Conduct Agreement you signed. I am telling you, that as your manager if you don't do this you would be insubordinate. One consequence of insubordination is that by law you can be terminated then for Corporate Misconduct. When you are terminated for misconduct, you by state law are not entitled to an Unemployment Claim. That is not Sun's run...that is state law. Also, depending on Sun's current policy at this time, you can lose your opportunity to elect COBRA Continuation of Health Care Benefits. You then have 63 days to obtain new coverage under an insurance policy. If you don't do this within 63 days, any medical preconditions that you might have can make you ineligible under some individual medical policies. In addition, a future employer's group policy may also exclude any coverage for preconditions subject to a waiting period."
What I've just shared with you, Mr/Ms. R. U. AlmostInsubordidate is a combination of Sun Separation Policy (offer of COBRA) and Federal Law (continuation & portability of insurance coverage under HIPAA-the Health Insurance Privacy & Accountability Act). My point is, it is not just all about Sun's rules. Laws apply here as well.
Therefore, I recommend that you not be insubordinate at this time. When you became a Sun employee you agreed to the Standard Business Conduct Guidelines. Sun retains ownership of any Ownership claim you might have as to OpenDS."
Would the above be a threat? No....merely statements of fact. The facts just happen to be ~very harse realities.~ Could the manager's statements be misunderstood as a threat by someone on the defensive? Most certainly it could be perceived as a threat.
I'm told that when programmers & engineers sign on to Sun they sign a Business Conduct statement which states in the Sun "Standards of Business Conduct" that "Any work developed by Employees or Contractors within the scope of their employment with Sun belongs to Sun.
If the former employee thinks that the Business Conduct Guide only applies to the WORKs and doesn't apply to OWNERSHIP OF A BOARD POSITION....they are of course free to dispute that. But, they better make an effort to truly understand the other sides position with an open mind & a clear understand of the facts, policies, & applicable law. And most of all, understand that WORDS MATTER.