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(Law.com)   Court rules Alcatel owns employee's thoughts   ( law.com) divider line
    More: Scary  
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8925 clicks; posted to Main » on 11 Aug 2002 at 7:41 AM (15 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2002-08-10 05:44:26 PM  
[image from isolachenonce-online.it too old to be available]
2002-08-10 08:48:50 PM  
This guy was stupid for trying to sell the idea to his own company. He should have just developed it on his own time and GPL'ed it. "Oh you want exclusive control of the source code? Too bad, it's mirrored all over the world."

In any case, the idea of intellectual "property" is stupid. It was originally intended to motivate individuals to innovate, but now it's simply another means for large corporations to rule the world. E.g. MPAA, RIAA, Microsoft.

Once Farkistan declares independence, I propose we abolish the idea of intellectual property.
2002-08-10 10:18:25 PM  
I think it is the norm that your company owns any innovations/inventions you create during your tenure. Seems reasonable if you are working on something during company time. Question is; just how do you seperate what goes on in a mind 9-5 and off the clock?
2002-08-11 07:52:39 AM  
I have to agree that he was a bone head to try to sell it to his own company. It still doesn't make this right. What I'd like to know now is how they're going to make him give them that code. If it's not written down anywhere, can they hold him in contempt of court in jail until he produces the product or do they have to rehire him and pay him? Boy, that guy is farked big time no matter what happens from here on out.
2002-08-11 07:53:07 AM  
That whole article gives me the heebee-jeebees, for more reasons than I can list here.

What's with this, BTW:
"In addition, Brown was ordered to pay Alcatel's legal fees, which exceed $330,000."
Hey, yo, "valued employee", we're going to claim ownership of your thoughts and then take all your worldly possessions. Neener neener.
2002-08-11 07:54:16 AM  
This is yet another reason to establish everything with your employer in writing before taking a job.
2002-08-11 07:58:34 AM  
All your thoughts are belong to Alcatel?
2002-08-11 07:58:47 AM  
"Once Farkistan declares independence, I propose we abolish the idea of intellectual property."

Fark is close to abolising intellectual thought so that shouldn't be a problem :-P
2002-08-11 07:59:49 AM  
employment agreements should be changed from long winded incomprehensible legal gibberish to the more honest and consise "all your base are belong to us".
2002-08-11 08:28:58 AM  
Alcatel DSL modems SUCK
Those power hungry usb pieces of crap are one of the most common problems you see on tech forums. They are one of the few things I've seen that can make WinXP bluescreen.
2002-08-11 08:29:16 AM  
Actually this is nothing new. Where I work (Pharma company) we essentially sign away our own I.P. if it's at all related to the Pharma industry. I have a friend at work who developed a new process that was worth about $50,000,000 to the company. The company sold the patent (which he was on) to another firm. What did my friend get out of this deal? Nada. Not even a pat on the back.

That's the price we pay to work there and earn the 'big bucks' as my friends say.
2002-08-11 08:30:10 AM  
I hate companies. Is nobody an actual human being anymore? How can anyone or any company claim the rights to another's thoughts? It's so wrong it's....it's...I have no words to express just how wrong it is, but believe you me, it is definitely wrong.
2002-08-11 08:32:19 AM  
employment agreements should be changed from long winded incomprehensible legal gibberish to the more honest and consise "all your base are belong to us".


That would most certainly fly in the corporate world.

By the way, you're an idiot.
2002-08-11 08:41:42 AM  
no offense meant

but what a dumb statement is all.
2002-08-11 08:43:39 AM  
If he's never written the idea down, and presumably never done any public testing of the idea to confirm that it actually works, then why doesn't he just give Alcatel a complicated yet non-functional version of the idea?

"There ya go, 5 years litigation and all you got was an idea that turns out to be defective. Now excuse me while I flee the country."
2002-08-11 08:55:29 AM  
Another example of "no good deed going unpunished." He thought that an idea he had, which had nothing to do with the job he was hired for, might help the company save a few bucks. Companies today demand employee loyalty, but offer none in return.
Also, lawyers are the scum of the earth.
2002-08-11 09:15:38 AM  
Whew, I'm glad Alcatel is getting him to pay their legal fees - I wouldn't want him to still have a home, car, bank account, or anything else.
2002-08-11 09:18:22 AM  
IP is funny, in the biotech industry the PhD's get all the credit whether they had anything to do with it or not. I agree most companies don't pay out like they should, like the post-it guy at 3M. My father used to work at Bell Labs, and they paid $10,000 per patent. Not bad, but the company made millions.
2002-08-11 09:19:00 AM  
I beg to differ Yotta
He knew what he was doing, He just didn't care.
2002-08-11 09:25:16 AM  
Wow... thats wrong on so many levels... he had written 80% of the code 12 years before he began working for the company and did the rest in his head while on vacation, then he offers to sell it to them and so they sue him, make him give them the program and charge him 330,000 for their legal fees. Damn, that's probably the best example ever of why you should never ever defend yourself in court
2002-08-11 09:26:36 AM  
Most companies don't want to change anything unless it was developed internally by employees that they "own". I've been trying to get a device on the market for a couple of years and after presenting it to a few manufacturers was told, "Great idea... bit of over kill... we've been doing it like this since '57 and don't see any reason to change now. Thanks for your time... goodbye!"

Oh well, maybe I'll see them at the trade shows... from my own booth!
2002-08-11 09:26:59 AM  
I'm of the oppinion if there is no written record, no hard-copy of the last 20% of the idea, He should "forget" the idea and say screw you guys... He could get a contempt of court charge, but I doubt (hope) this case is thrown out at appeals. They (the Company) should be forced to give fair compensation for the profits earned by that idea... If it even works...

What a horrible though. By the story the company wasn't even in the market of developing that type of tech, just wants to claim it...

The new clause in the Contract should read. "Any Idea, no matter how lame, unused, or useless to the company, is ours. Your only hope is to give up now and quit thinking."

BTW: I came up with some major operations processes for my company, and I got an "attaboy" and a company tee-shirt...
2002-08-11 09:30:38 AM  
...and your salary.
2002-08-11 09:32:10 AM  
I'm sure glad I don't get docked when I'm *not* doing actual work. But nobody here is on Fark during working hours, right? ;-P
2002-08-11 09:45:04 AM  
"The better the state is established, the fainter is humanity."

Proof that there's a Nietzsche quote for every occasion. admittedly he was talking about a country not a company, but it holds true. As corparations become more powerful, individuals become weaker.
2002-08-11 09:45:49 AM  
and for those of you wondering, yes, I did steal my argument from Deus Ex.
2002-08-11 09:49:28 AM  
Only one way to stop this...

[image from a744.g.akamai.net too old to be available]
2002-08-11 09:57:15 AM  
Duh is the word of the day, the word of the day being duh!

Never trust your f*cking scumbag sh*thead employer.
2002-08-11 10:27:38 AM  
That'll teach you to think at work, asshat.

Does anyone actually get rewarded for thinking at work anymore? or is it just my crappy situation.
2002-08-11 10:46:11 AM  
I am so creeped out by this I don't even know where to begin.. just one more motivation for me to finish grad school so I can have enough clout with a future employer to be able to put a 'fark you, I invent something on my own time then its mine' clause in any employment contract.
2002-08-11 10:47:02 AM  
Unclesharky, in answer to your question -- no.

What you will get is an unlubricated fist rammed up your @ss at any time, for any reason. You will also get one (1) crappy company holiday party, one (1) sh*tty raise, and one (1) metric ton of sh*t from the MGMT for you to enjoy every single wonderous workday.

Chin up! At least the crappy coffee, cheap pens, and paper clips are free!!!
2002-08-11 11:02:04 AM  
"I had this all thought out before I was hired, no wait before I graduated from high school, no wait before I was even born! So there's no way I used company time, knowledge gleaned for others in the company, or industry contacts to come up with this idea and there's no way I should be held to a contract I signed even though my company has met their contractual duties and responsibilities. Besides this is the internet age. Who do these businesses think they are claiming they own intellectual property rights? Software and ideas belong to anyone capable of hacking/ripping them off." Two words describe the previous.... ARSEFARKING BULLCRAP!
2002-08-11 11:10:12 AM  
If this happened to me, I'd sure as hell a few 'thoughts' to share with them, seeing as how they are so eager to have them. I don't really know what the legal precedents are in this case if any, so I can't really make a good argument for or against him. BUT, it most certainly does not seem right to me to own someone's thoughts before they are shared, contract or not.
2002-08-11 11:18:23 AM  
And ppl wonder why I think conservatives (who I'm sure see nothing wrong w/this) are scum.
2002-08-11 11:26:47 AM  
"Nobody likes to pay a lawyer, but if you sit down with one for an hour and really understand what you are signing, maybe you'd go back and say, 'I'm not going to sign this ... without adding this language,'" Burgert says.

Nobody likes paying protection. But, if you sit down with Tony "The Vise" for an hour and really understand how difficult it is to earn a living with two broken arms, you'd go back and say, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

Note to self: oppose any Alcatel equipment ever proposed for inclusion in any contracts....
2002-08-11 11:30:03 AM  
This farking sucks. I am in the exact same situation as this guy was. At least I know not to pitch it to my employer. I thought for sure that I could pursue the idea since it had originated before I committed my mind to them.
2002-08-11 11:31:40 AM  
"Brown, representing himself pro se..."

This lone phrase speaks volumes about this case. No one, even a lawyer, should represent himself in court. The outcome may have been different had this guy been represented. Perhaps he'll wise up and hire someone for the appeal.
2002-08-11 11:35:25 AM  
When Americans are sent overseas to shed blood to protect the corporations... I want those corporations on the front lines.

Uhhhh.. corporations ARE considered a legal entity, right?
2002-08-11 11:38:15 AM  
And ppl wonder why I think conservatives (who I'm sure see nothing wrong w/this) are scum.

Yeeeaaaahhhhhh. Nice pulled-out-of-your-ass generalization.
2002-08-11 11:45:25 AM  
Nothing new here.

I heard of a case one time where a company sued an ex-employee for an invention he came up with at home, away from work. It seems that he had "borrowed" a few pieces of software (word and autocad) from work and the company surmised that since he had used their property to invent it, it is their idea.

There was another case where a guy was motivated by a non-work related issue he saw at his office. There to, the company sued on the grounds that the inspiration to ponder the problem came from them, thus they own the result. Don't recall the result of that one though.
2002-08-11 11:52:11 AM  
"And ppl wonder why I think conservatives (who I'm sure see nothing wrong w/this) are scum."

No. They're also the ones who will assure you that the exec who reaps millions from the ideas and sweat of others is rich because he worked 'harder' than the peons he exploits.
What B.S.
2002-08-11 11:57:39 AM  
Corporations are evil.
2002-08-11 12:07:34 PM  
We need a "Texas" tag.
2002-08-11 01:18:05 PM  
I think this whole story...........never mind.
2002-08-11 01:29:00 PM  
I've refused to work for a company at wanted me to sign
a contract with an "anything you think up at any time is ours" clause. When they showed me this piece of crap I asked the CEO, "so this means if I build my kid a play structure in the backyard *you* own the design". Him: "Yup". Me: "I am not signing this". Him: "You have to". Me: "Thanks for your time, bye".

If more people did this these things would be less common.

2002-08-11 01:36:49 PM  
Standard part of any employment contract. There's always the "don't sign" option. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to work for these mega companies.

On the other hand if you do, you can just STFU if you get a good idea, quit, wait the required time, then patent your idea and send your company a nice bowl of shiat and a "fark you" card.

BTW, read everything before you sign. If you're a cashier at Radio Shack, you are an employee of Tandy Corp., and they own everything you create, even though you're a lowly employee. If you don't like this stuff, don't sign.

Personally, I like choice number 2. Sign the contract, take their money, quit and give them the big "fark you" when you can. Only caveat is if someone else had the same idea while you're waiting, but that's where the STFU comes in.
2002-08-11 01:38:22 PM  
Not to sound too cynical here, but i would not worry. Most cases when guys actually are being screwed, as opposed to having a screw loose, don't result in them representing themselves in court.

If this guy had a legitimate claim the lawyers would have been all over him to defend.

I doubt this is a precedent setting case. More like, lone wacko that got himself hosed then tried to fight his way out.
2002-08-11 02:13:01 PM  
Damian: A third option is to cross-out or rewrite clauses in the employment agreement. If they really want to hire you they'll usually not raise too much of a stink over it.
2002-08-11 03:09:37 PM  
Solution is, don't tell them until you quit. It's like trying to barter a deal with somebody when they have your nuts in a vice grip, they can get a deal if they want to
2002-08-11 03:36:57 PM  
Ok, I hate myself for this, but it must be said:

They ownz j00!

(I'll go beat myself now.)
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