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Confidentiality and Noncompete Agreement 2.5 years into employementHelpful Member!(5) 

uGlay (Mechanical)
19 Jul 10 15:18
so i was just handed (actually the entire department) a non-compete agreement.  everyone promptly signed it with no questions however my role in the firm is that of a mechanical design and i am constantly creating solutions for mechanical problems which require creative thinking and design.

i would have no problem with it except for the fact that a few weeks ago i was in talks of patenting one of the products which i have worked on for over a year.

so basically i was in talks of including my name in the patent of such product (since i pretty much came up with the solution) I as well as project managers and engineers thought it would be fair for my name to be on the document.

now ive been handed this paper, to everyone it was like 'whatever' because everyone else is doing electrical design which there aint much to it just a bunch of lines in cad (ok ok im exaggerating) but everyone signed it.  and im the only one who hasnt signed it.

anyways, sorry for my post if it is a bit unorganized but i am a bit shaken right now..

what would you do fellow Eng-r's.  I am torn.  they are saying i either sign it or im done for in this company.

basically the doc starts with "Whereas employee desires to become or remain employed..."


p.s. ive signed many NDA's with no issues, but this case is different because i was in talks of furthering a patent.  Its offensive.

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IRstuff (Aerospace)
19 Jul 10 15:25
Not sure what you think the connection is.  How does this NDA/NC prevent you from getting your name on the patent?  Since the patent is most likely to be assigned to your company anyway, isn't it just a matter of recognition as opposed to an change in monetary compensation?

TTFN

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uGlay (Mechanical)
19 Jul 10 15:27
it doesnt implicitly prevent me from getting my name on the patent but it sure does take a step in that direction.

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uGlay (Mechanical)
19 Jul 10 15:44
i just re-read it and yeah if i sign this i give up my right to patent anything because i made it during work hours with the work computer.

LOL.

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drawoh (Mechanical)
19 Jul 10 15:51
uGlay,

   Are they obliged to put your name on the patent now?

               JHG

uGlay (Mechanical)
19 Jul 10 15:55
no they arent.  but the whole reason why that product was considered for patent is because a similar product (by our competitor) was found to have one.

this other company's patent includes the entire engineering team that worked on the product.

i should just sign this stupid thing, keep my mouth shut and continue working...

 

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IRstuff (Aerospace)
19 Jul 10 17:04
Actually, the fact that the patent was yours already is simply a reflection of the fact that the rule was already in place.  The document is simply codifies what was already an existing rule.

Since you used company resource and were being paid the company to solve problems, it's generally accepted that the company owns any inventions you come up with, unless your invention has no bearing on your work.  But then, why would they be patenting it?

In any case, you can still get your name as the inventor, but the patent is assigned to your company, which is pretty standard practice, at least in the US.

TTFN

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MacGyverS2000 (Electrical)
19 Jul 10 17:15
Not your patent if it was on company time and you used company equipment... not much leeway on this one.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

IRstuff (Aerospace)
19 Jul 10 17:29
I've worked for 6 companies, and they all had the same policy.  It may be that your previous companies simply allowed you to have ownership of what was otherwise their property.  

Note that being listed as inventor does not make you the owner of the patent.  Unless the assignee of the patent is also you, you don't own the patent, and cannot exercise any of the patent rights, which is true of my 3 patents that were actually issued and my 8 inventions that didn't get to that stage.

TTFN

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rowingengineer (Structural)
19 Jul 10 17:34
uglay,
Consider yourself lucky if you hold patents for projects while working for a company. Generally as the others have described, if you work for a company use their equipment and get paid for it, anything that is produce under this arrangement remains the company's property. Must ask do you receive royalties for these products that you have patents from other companies?

The non-compete agreement comes up all the time in these forums, depending on your location they may or may not be enforceable, in my home town they are not enforceable.
 

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field

IRstuff (Aerospace)
19 Jul 10 17:40
Lest you still think that this is unique, attached is a patent awarded to 10 employees of a smallish company in Tennessee.  Note, however, the Assignee is their company, so they are the inventors, but the company owns their invention.

http://files.engineering.com/getfile.aspx?folder=0ce2c126-b0b3-435e-be4c-da2ad1d9760e&file=US5850625_Sensor_fusion_apparatus_and_method.pdf

TTFN

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MacGyverS2000 (Electrical)
19 Jul 10 18:59

Quote (uGlay):

stick to soldering LED's on car parts.
Funny... my comment wasn't meant to be taken in a nasty tone, I was just short on time when I replied.  Though your response speaks volumes about you...

FYI?  The LEDs are a self-sustaining hobby side-business, along with my growing laser engraving and CNC business.  My "day" job is as a firmware engineer for one of the biggest medical device companies in the world, where every day I work on projects that are constantly scoured for patentable ideas.  In between time I'm writing a book on laser material processing and there will more than likely be a few patents coming out of my testing.  Maybe you should consider that before dismissing my views so quickly...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

uGlay (Mechanical)
19 Jul 10 19:07
IRstuff thanks for the insight into your patents.  I also am listed as inventor not the owner.

this document i have been handed states i vest ALL titles to the company for such patent.

in my opinion, if you want to stifle creativity and have employees that put in the bare minimum this is a surefire way of attaining that. a small 1% incentive drives employees to innovate and create things that are marketable and as such patentable. and if there isnt a royalty just tack it onto the emotional paycheck of having your name on a United States patent. :shrug:

But in this case my opinion may not count.  So i simply fall back on the fact that i had been in talks with other employees about filing a patent for a project i have been working on for a 1 year now.

Why didn't I talk to the company earlier about royalties and patent rights?
When i started working here i didn't see potential for products that could be patentable because of the nature of the work we were doing but then they landed some bigger contracts and that changed. couldashouldawoulda.

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Helpful Member!(3)  patprimmer (Publican)
19 Jul 10 21:05
uGlay

Dan was correct.

You are carrying on about pissing rights. Unless you have a very unusual contract or work in a country or state with very unusual laws, the company owns the IP for anything you create on their time, especially on their property. In some areas or contracts you even need to be careful or they might claim ownership of stuff you do on your own time.

Being listed as inventor while nice is only prestige.

Many employees work for their agreed salary (ie meet their end of the contract)and do a good job without being melodramatic prima donnas or expecting extra payment for simply doing their job well.

It is once again interesting that all responses to date seem to presume uGlay is working in the USA although his location was never disclosed.

A non compete contract is quite a different thing to being recognised on patents and I am sure laws vary greatly from state to state even within the western developed world.

Certainly here (Australia) any employer who tried to stick you with new unfavorable terms after you where employed would be in trouble with the law, at least right now. Out last federal election, and probably the current one where fought with this being a major issue.

Basically, a company has a right to retain any IP and customer relationships generated by their employees whilst on the job, however employees re also entitled to work for a living and companies have no right to force you into a position where you are unemployable. There is a huge grey area in the middle and different regimes and even different times may influence the legal status in such regards.

Regards
Pat
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Ron (Structural)
19 Jul 10 23:32
uGlay...non-compete agreements can be a condition of  beginning employment, but not sure it's legal to interject an NCA on existing employees, particularly if you might be fired for not signing. You are in a "right to work" state, so you can be fired for little or no reason with no recourse.  

Check with the National Labor Relations Board.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
20 Jul 10 0:56

Quote:

this document i have been handed states i vest ALL titles to the company for such patent.

That's what I was talking about; it basically allows you or whoever to be the "inventor" but the company owns the patent.  In most companies, it's not necessarily bad; we got $400 for an invention disclosure and $1000 for the actual patent award, along with a nice plaque of the patent title page.

To have expected anything more is probably too naive.  How do you think companies get the patent portfolios they get to barter and batter with?  

When Hitachi got caught stealing trade secrets from IBM c.1984, they promptly sued everyone else using their massive patent portfolio, hoping to catch some dough.  Fairchild was sued for $50M, but managed to beat them down to $7M, which was still pretty massive.  Luckily, we had lots of packrats who could pull out either existing literature, textbooks, or other artifacts that demonstrated that many Hitachi patents were invalid.  Not unexpectedly, I didn't even get a pat on the back for helping save the company $43M plus lawyer's fees.  Such is life when playing with the big boys.  And that was a way more tangible scenario than most patent assignments, where any potential payoff is still way in the distant future.

Given that most of my other companies spend something on the order of $10K to get a patent award, it's a big investment with no guarantee of payoff.

TTFN

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Helpful Member!  moltenmetal (Chemical)
20 Jul 10 9:30
OK uGlay, it sounds like you work for a place which made some mistakes when they hired you!

An NDA needs to be signed before you see anything confidential or proprietary to be legally effective.  That said, any employee has a basic fiduciary duty to their employer not to reveal information which would be damaging to their business, unless it's related to some illegal activity the company might be engaged in such that whistleblower protections would kick in.

A document making it clear what you get, if anything, from the assignment of patent or trademark rights for intellectual property developed for your employer while you are employed, needs to be in place BEFORE you invent anything- otherwise it leads to unpleasant situations like this!

It is VERY rare that an employer would permit their employees to invent stuff on their nickel while allowing the employee to retain title to the invention.  It is NEVER the case that an employer will pay the legal costs of obtaining a defensible patent that their employee will wholly own.  It SOMETIMES happens that an employer will give employees SOME patent rights, such as a royalty, as a reward specific to their invention- nice places, those!  It is TYPICAL that an employer will give some token payment for the assignment of rights and give nothing thereafter- the token payment making it very clear that some "consideration" specific to the assignment of rights changed hands to make this a legally binding contract.  On the plus side, in those cases the employee will not have to spend anything defending the patent against challengers- the boss picks up that rather hefty bill.

Patents MUST list the inventors- that is not a "nice to have" honour, it is necessary to make them legal and defensible.

While it is true that an NDA and total assignment of patent rights is customary when you are employed, I'm not a lawyer and hence can't advise you if your employers have any leg to stand on by claiming that such agreement was an implicit part of your contract, or so customary that you should have considered it to be so.  Nor can I advise you whether or not the company can legally compell you to enter into such agreements after the fact with the threat of losing your job and get away with it.

Bottom line:  if you like your job there, sign the papers.  If you don't, or you think that this thing you've invented might possibly have enough market potential to make future employment unnecessary, then perhaps talking to a real live lawyer would be a good idea.

Wow, being a mere employee can suck sometimes, can't it?!  Then again, it has its long list of benefits too.  

There was a good link to a humourous paper titled "the case against patents" which I quite enjoyed but can't be bother to search for you right now.  You should read it, lest you think that beyond being listed as an inventor on a granted patent  (a nice thing to add to your resume), you're REALLY losing much that is truly of value to you as an individual.  
KENAT (Mechanical)
20 Jul 10 10:43
uGlay, they introduced similar contracts here just before I started - though I think the emphasis/big issue was the non compete part.

Some of the old folks weren't too happy.

At least one got in a big fight with management and quit.

He now works for the competition across the other side of the parking lot.

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TheTick (Mechanical)
20 Jul 10 23:13
Inventorship on a patent is a matter of legal record.  Must be accurate and can't be erased.  Does not imply ownership.
mbt22 (Chemical)
21 Jul 10 7:24
uGlay,

This may be a silly question, but have you asked the company lawyers/patent attorneys if you're going to be dropped from the patent as an inventor?  

The whole inventorship thing seems like a non-issue.  My simplistic reading is just i) patent assigned to company, so they can exploit it; ii) you get listed as inventor, which to be honest is useful for bragging rights and maybe CV points.  People get listed as inventors, not corporations.

As usual, I'm not a lawyer, you wouldn't ask a lawyer to design a vessel for you etc etc.

Matt
moltenmetal (Chemical)
21 Jul 10 7:54
Sorry to the OP- it appears I forgot about the non-compete part of it.

Being asked to sign a non-compete AFTER you've been employed for a time is a definite no-no.  If you sign it, make sure you put it in writing that you signed it on threat of termination of employment, which apparently is the case.  I'm confident that such a non-compete would be unenforceable, even if you didn't put that in writing, since you have the memo which says, "Whereas the employee wishes to remain employed..."- that sounds like plenty of proof that it was being compelled.  

Non-competes are usually unenforceable anyway, except in cases where the people involved are less employees and more business partners.  Employers can't prevent former employees from earning a living.  While that is true, former employers CAN scare off your potential future employers by threatening legal action in an attempt to enforce a non-compete.  Many employers are not made of stern enough stuff to get involved in a legal battle over a new hire- they'd rather just send you on your way.  I've seen that happen before.
patprimmer (Publican)
21 Jul 10 8:16
I think a lot here are advising uGlay about legal rights, BUT we still don't know where he lives and works. Laws are most definitely different in different countries and different states. He may well not live where you live.
 

Regards
Pat
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YoungTurk (Mechanical)
21 Jul 10 10:44
I'm with molten on this one.  The big deal is the non-compete.  The impact that would have on you is dependent on your situation, but if you could/would be held to it the financial impact might be significant.

Is it possible the patent you're working on got them worried about losing IP?

From my experience as a listed inventor on a patent, I don't think you stood to gain financially from the patent unless (a) the company decided to share the wealth (some do, most don't) or (b) you were willing to use the patent as proof of your knowledge of the product type in the job market.  A non-compete is intended to prevent you from doing things like (b).  
moltenmetal (Chemical)
21 Jul 10 12:08
Pat's right of course, and more than once posters like myself have admonished the OP to seek real legal advice from people qualified to give it.
kontiki99 (Electrical)
21 Jul 10 23:37
Let me get this straight.  If everyone signs the NCA, then they lay everyone off, nobody can get a job with a competitor?

I think before I'd sign something like that, I'd want a contract to guarantee my own employment for some length of time at some specific salary and severance.

I've always wondered about just quietly signing unfair documents with something like Donald Duck in some elegant script.   
patprimmer (Publican)
21 Jul 10 23:46
My favourite non de plum is Yogi Bear, or Yogi B Bear if a more formal tone is required.

Regards
Pat
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BRGENG (Structural)
25 Jul 10 23:53
If you are not in ownership, or at least paid an owners wage, do not sign a non-compete.  You will regret it greatly when another opportunity presents itself.   
HgTX (Civil/Environmental)
26 Jul 10 10:26
How does one successfully refrain from signing such things?

Hg

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patprimmer (Publican)
26 Jul 10 11:26
HG

I think that depends where you live.

Certainly here, right now, if an employer sacked a worker for not signing an agreement to allow a downgrade in their contract, the employer would be punished severely under the law.

Regards
Pat
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btrueblood (Mechanical)
26 Jul 10 12:20
In the US, it is fairly common knowledge than non-compete agreements are not worth the paper used to print them, being un-enforceable and likely tossed out by most judges.  The only time they work is if they are very specific about who you will not work with/for, and a monetary compensation is given.

But, as noted elsewhere, the OP may or may not be in the US, and the above is not the opinion of a lawyer.  In fact, it's about as far from being the latter as possible.
HgTX (Civil/Environmental)
26 Jul 10 12:58
(1) What about non-compete agreements required for starting, rather than continuing, employment?

(2) If they're so widely known to be useless, why do they still exist?

(3) I did know someone who had to lie low for a year because of his non-compete agreement.  These agreements are only ineffective for people who have lots of spare money to hire lawyers?

Hg

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IRstuff (Aerospace)
26 Jul 10 13:30
In certain government jobs, non-competes are common AND enforceable, since the people might otherwise wind up in a position to violate FAR procurement rules.   

TTFN

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patprimmer (Publican)
26 Jul 10 18:45
Patents and disclaimers are also not really enforceable but they still exist for bluff value or to intimidate the meek or uniformed.  

Regards
Pat
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patprimmer (Publican)
26 Jul 10 18:46
Opps

Or those who cannot afford or do not wish to spend mega$ on lawyers.

Regards
Pat
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IRstuff (Aerospace)
27 Jul 10 0:29
As I mentioned before, the Lemuelson Foundation has a cadre of lawyers on retainer, and their sole purpose is to create revenue for the foundation by suing for infringement of Lemuelson's patents, of which there are many.

TTFN

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stevenal (Electrical)
27 Jul 10 12:46
"Whereas employee desires to become or remain employed..."

Assuming you are presently an at will employee, it seems this agreement might create an employment contract where there was none before. But I did not sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
HgTX (Civil/Environmental)
27 Jul 10 18:40
IRStuff--true enough; I'm a government employee and I don't need to sign a special non-compete agreement because it is encoded into state law.  Fortunately, it's pretty restricted in scope--most of us do end up in the private sector when we leave.

Hg

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btrueblood (Mechanical)
27 Jul 10 19:17
Ok, I should have been more specific.  In general, I have been given NCA's to sign which, a) are not limited in scope (whom exactly I may not work for) nor time duration, and b) typically had no due compensation for my lack of employability after termination as a result of the NCA.  Both are reasons for such NCA's to be tossed out of court very quickly.  The OP's situiation, with the addition of "sign this or get out" coercion makes it less likely to be enforceable as well.  In general, in the US, an NCA that limits somebody's employability, without due compensation (i.e., to the extent of "pay me my salary for the year that the NCA is in effect"), won't hold up.

Again, this is legal stuff, and I'm not a lawyer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-compete_clause

 
btrueblood (Mechanical)
27 Jul 10 19:19
Sorry, should have added:

In EVERY case, 5 times or more so far, even when given an NCA "after the fact", I have signed, knowing the contract would be unlikely to be enforced, and subject to countersuit should it become necessary.  That's probably unethical of me, but then, so is asking an employee to sign one.
YoungTurk (Mechanical)
28 Jul 10 8:36
uGlay - how about an update? Has this played out yet?
Ron (Structural)
28 Jul 10 21:17
BTB...In the US, there are two requirements for enforceability...is the geographical restriction reasonable and is the time period reasonable.  If both are deemed reasonable, it is generally enforceable.

There is a large national engineering firm that requires signing an NCA...they are very successful in enforcing it within a certain distance of ANY of their US offices, and for a period of 1 year.  
NomLaser (Mechanical)
29 Jul 10 9:26
Last company that I worked for had me sign one on the way in.  When they let me go, I asked for a list of companies that I couldn't work for.  They failed to produce one so I ignored it when looking for new work.
btrueblood (Mechanical)
29 Jul 10 11:37
Ron,

If the NCA made an ex-employee un-employable during that year, and he was not "fairly compensated" for lost wages during that time, he could have a pretty good chance of recovering damages from said large firm.  Granted, what is "fairly compensated" can only be answered by a jury, and you have to pay the ticket (attorney fees) to get the answer...
looslib (Mechanical)
29 Jul 10 12:39
Some US military officers when they retire are restricted from working for certain companies.
I have one friend who can never work for Boeing because of the contracts he oversaw while in the Army.
 

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

uGlay (Mechanical)
1 Dec 10 16:50
Well here goes an update.

I set up an appointment with the division manager in late july.  He came down from Headquarters and I sat down with him in private to talk about the nca/nda among other things.

I made all my points clear and he wrote everything down.  After conversing about duties and what is expected etc etc i told him my final statement was that "i would not sign the nca/nda in its current form unless it was ammended to implicitly state that I would be included in any/all patents for any/all products i worked on"

After that meeting there has been complete silence in regard to the nca/nda... i never heard anything from him again even though he said he would be meeting with the legal team to reformulate the document.  i dont know what to make of it but i still have my job....

Regarding the patent that was being contemplated. The project which i was working on that required a patent hit a major roadblock and now needs to be fully redesigned due to customer's specifications.

THE KICKER, due to the 'economic downturn' there has been a lot of internal reorganization in the company now there are talks of patenting a lot of products we have designed, sold and kept stored in our system over the years.  HA!! so now that everyone has signed the paper they are ready to start patenting.  

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IRstuff (Aerospace)
1 Dec 10 20:47
From the USPTO rules:

§ 1.46 Assigned inventions and patents.
In case the whole or a part interest in the invention or in the patent to be issued is assigned, the application must still be made or authorized to be made, and an oath or declaration signed, by the inventor or one of the persons mentioned in §§ 1.42, 1.43, or 1.47. However, the patent may be issued to the assignee or jointly to the inventor and the assignee as provided in § 3.81.

TTFN

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MacGyverS2000 (Electrical)
2 Dec 10 6:24

Quote (uGlay):

THE KICKER, due to the 'economic downturn' there has been a lot of internal reorganization in the company now there are talks of patenting a lot of products we have designed, sold and kept stored in our system over the years.
Maybe I misunderstand you, but if a design has been sold or reveled to the public domain already, getting a patent on it is going to be...well, shall we say, "difficult".

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

msquared48 (Structural)
2 Dec 10 17:47
Reasonably, there sould be a time limit to the non-compete clause.  

Wiyth the advice of my lawyer, I would add a clause of my own to the contract, since it technically is a counteroffer to the current employment status, that the same time limit will apply to any layoff or firing of you by the company for any reason, accoppanied by pre-determined raises and yearly bonuses, etc., for your involvement in this and any future patents for the company.  Use your imagination.

If they want to renegotiate employment for you, then renegotiate to your benefit.  Otherwise, take your cookies to the competitor.  They started this legal charade - you finish it.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

beej67 (Civil/Environmental)
3 Dec 10 17:07
If you're in Georgia, they now have the right to prevent you from working in your field of expertise for several years after you quit or are fired with non-compete agreements.  It's nasty, and ugly, and all sorts of other things inappropriate to say in a public forum.  

Check that.

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uGlay (Mechanical)
7 May 11 14:22
they sent out an email reminder on march 17th and then a day later i was called into the conference room and let go from the company.  

"position eliminated" was the reason...





 

Tony Suarez, Design & Engineering
www.alphawolftech.com

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MacGyverS2000 (Electrical)
7 May 11 17:15
I would request a list of who was let go broken down by age, race, sex, percentage let go from department worked for, etc.  Names will not be included, of course.  They must provide you with this information.  If your release sticks out like a sore thumb, you have a lawsuit to file.
 

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

Ron (Structural)
7 May 11 21:18
uGlay....BS....document all that you have outlined here and establish your case. Sounds like they let you go without probable cause.

Good luck.
Helpful Member!  JohnRBaker (Mechanical)
8 May 11 1:31
Has anyone mentioned that corporations are NOT able to patent anything?  Only a person(s) can apply for and be issued a patent.  Granted, he (they) may have signed a 'patent agreement' assigning the 'rights' to the patent over to their employer (I've signed one with every employer I've worked for) but that does not mean that he (they) will not get proper recognition by having his (their) name included on the patent itself (I'm co-inventor on 2 U.S. Patents, both of which were assigned to my employer but my name still appears as one of the 'inventors').

BTW, your employer MUST pay the inventors for the rights to any patent assigned to the company, but legally it can be as low as one dollar.  In my case, my employer paid me and my fellow co-inventor $200 (after taxes) each, for each of the 2 patents which I was an inventor on (this was back in the 70's so $200 actually could buy you something decent).  We also got a $100 for each patentable idea presented to management even if a patent was never actually issued (over about an 8 year period I collected an addtional $400 of walking-around money from my submissions of new and/or unique ideas).    

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Design Solutions
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
http://www.siemens.com/plm
http://www.plmworld.org/museum/

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
 

YoungTurk (Mechanical)
9 May 11 13:30
That sucks.

Given the time elapsed and your previous mention of difficulties on the project and 'economic downturn', it might prove difficult to do anthing productive about it. Consider the stress, expense, and effect on your employability shoud you choose to retaliate.

Fortunately, you have no barrier preventing you from offering your services elsewhere, including any competitors who may find your ideas worth something.

Best of luck.
MacGyverS2000 (Electrical)
9 May 11 13:43
Personally, I'd weigh heavily the potential for a multi-million $ lawsuit if my facts and documentation were strong enough... winky smile

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

moltenmetal (Chemical)
10 May 11 7:46
You got screwed over.  Call the lawyers...
FACS (Mechanical)
26 May 11 17:35
OH man, that's funny as hell. What a great read this was.

 

Charlie
www.facsco.com

MacGyverS2000 (Electrical)
27 May 11 7:18

Quote (FACS):

OH man, that's funny as hell. What a great read this was.
Inside joke?

The man was release from his employment, quite possibly in an illegal manner... I'm not quite seeing the hilarious part.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

FACS (Mechanical)
27 May 11 10:40
Yeah, I knew as soon as I posted that, someone would take it to task. I can't be the only person that reads that entire year-long drama, and find it funny.

Moltenmetal gave this guy perfect advice several times, and this guy just passed it over.  He asked for advice, he got fantastic advice, and he ignored it. His arrogance did him in, and I find it funny.

He completely disrespected Electrical Engineers, claiming that all they do is lines on AutoCad; that's an incredibly self-centered position. "Just because" they are Electrical Engineers, they signed the papers? His narcissistic behavior at this point made me chuckle. He really thinks he is something special. Yet, all those Electrical Engineers still have their jobs... I bet.

First off, if he would have conveyed just a touch of conventional wisdom, he would have signed the Non-compete knowing full well it means absolutely nothing if signed "under duress". Moltenmetal pointed that out quite well. This topic is covered in Business Law; it's common knowledge that an employer that has you sign a non-disclosure after a 2.5-year employment isn't going to have a leg to stand on. Therefore, sign the paper and move on; keep your job and if by some odd chance you do go to work for a competitor, it's not going to be much of a problem. Why would anyone in their right mind, fret over something that most likely, isn't even going to happen?

Stubborn Arrogance.


Then we have the whole patent issue. Of all the things I have invented, and there are now hundreds, I've only had my name on three USA patents. This guys understanding of how the world works is quite naïve. If you want to own a patent, come up with a solution to a problem on your own. Pay out the big bucks to a patent attorney, wait years for fruition, and hope to God your idea was good enough to generate a return. Chances are, it won't. The vast majority of patents don't make a cent. Companies put patents in place to hold off competition for a while, but most patents are circumvented anyhow.

He even said that the customer changed the specifications so the patent was a no go anyhow. He wouldn't even be working on it if it were not for someone else.

IF you are hired to design for a company, that company legally pays you a nominal amount of money, and has you sign a contract that legally turns over all your ideas to them. I always got a dollar. I'll sign anything because it usually means nothing. I'm still breathing. Life shouldn't be that complicated. Lighten up.

But in the real world, understand that you probably would NEVER come up with a patent-able idea if you were not already employed by a company which presents the problems to you. You get paid to invent solutions to problems that someone else comes up with. You get paid to solve problems that others thought of. You enter the work force into companies that already exist, and you continue to on a path that others have set. Be wise, and continue on that path for as long as you can. Do not jeopardize your career with foolish self-centered notions on how you "think" things should be.

With this, I find the guy getting exactly what he deserved. If he's so great, I suspect that we will soon be hearing about his fantastic inventions in the news. Certainly, he is superior to the rest of the world, and he will be thinking up clever solutions to all our problems... on his own... for his own company.

So it's probably going to work out great for him. This is probably going to be the best thing that ever happened to him. I wish his brilliant-self many returns on his fantastic inventions. I suspect he is now forming his own company, and he is going to have the happiest employees around.

So as I read this entire post for the first time, in it's entirety. I got to the part where he got canned, and yeah, coffee spit out my nose... sorry, sue me... it's funny.

 

Charlie
www.facsco.com

FACS (Mechanical)
27 May 11 10:50

Another note on Non compete agreements. I see a lot of misconceptions. Everyone has the right to work and make a living. If you get fired for any reason other than outright insubordination, you get to work for anyone you want. You have a right to make a living, and no one can stop you. Non competes are in place to stop employees from gathering institutional knowledge, and taking it to a competitor.

If you get fired, you an work anywhere you want. Non-competes are incredibly hard to defend, and very expensive. Most companies don't bother, and really don't even need to know where you work.

Charlie
www.facsco.com

patprimmer (Publican)
28 May 11 7:34
FACS

I agree with a lot of what you say even if I disagree with the attitude behind it.

Where I strongly disagree is with your giving legal advice based on the law where you live when there is not one word I can find that gives a clue as to where the OP lives or what laws or jurisdiction applies.

I actually find it quite arrogant to just presume your laws apply equally across the entire world.

Regards
Pat
See FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on use of eng-tips by professional engineers &
http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm
for site rules
 

FACS (Mechanical)
28 May 11 9:21
patprimer,
I agree, laws vary from state to let; applications of the same laws vary from stste to state, and certaintly laws vary from country to country. While I didn'T intend to actually give legal advice, I woukd understand how one would think I did. I know California courts tend to favor the employers on non-competes. In Illinois, a friend of mine directly violated his non-compete, and ended up paying $3000 in settlement.

I'm not a lawyer so my ability to dispense legal advise is zero, as is most everyone else on this site. That shoild be obvious to anyone reading this. However we do study business law in graduate school. We must so that we can be protected from making mistakes. Just as we follow laws to protect others in society, we must know them to follow them, and we may even remind others so that they may follow correctly.

Taken all that aside, if one considers the consequences of his actions, he should not be surprised of those consequences.

I see no difference in what I stated in my other posts, than the advise of others: to seek legal advise; that the OP was fired illegally; that the OP should file a lawsuit; when others state what they know of patent laws....this is not actually legal advise per say, this is only areas of the law that we know about (because we do know things) that the OP should consider.

You do make a good point, and we all sholud consider your words. Things are not necessiarily the same where we live, and we never did find out where the OP is.

Even without considering any legal aspects of the law, what do we suppose would have happened if the OP would have signed the agreement along with all those other insignificant, non contributing electrical engineers? I suppose the "grey area" you mentioned in one of your first posts in this thread is really a short version on what I feel is true.  

Charlie
www.facsco.com

jmw (Industrial)
23 Jul 11 9:55
Here is an interesting article at BNET about the effect of non-compete agreements......Want Your Innovators to Leave? Make Them Sign a Non-Compete

JMW
www.ViscoAnalyser.com

 

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