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This is a part of my effort to help my friend who is thinking about patenting an idea (regarding some concept of security and compression). This is obviously not my idea and I am only helping my friend (let us call him/her X from company Y). This professional X is trying to see if his/her employer (a large company) Y would patent his/her idea or let him patent his idea by himself/herself.

Main Question: How would X contact Y's legal team/patent team directly? and where can that information be found?

General questions (sub-questions; It would greatly help if you can answer; Otherwise, please ignore):

  1. How would large companies notify employees about possible patenting processes?
  2. How would the legal team of company be in touch with employees who hold intellectual property?
  3. I have heard that some companies even reward employees with monetary and corporate benefits if they come up with intellectual property. How is that notified to the employees?
  4. Does the normal process involve calling the general helpline or sending a draft of the patent to manager for review?

Specific scenario (The reason for asking main question; It would be helpful if the answer also provides solutions for this situation):

  1. In X's case, X has searched for patent process in Y's website and X has not found any information regarding the same.
  2. X can also be fired if this patent is disclosed to manager as the manager might think that X is simply wasting time on useless stuffs even though X has worked on it mostly on weekends. This way, X can be fired for being "innovative" while the patent inventor's name might be someone other than X if the concepts of security and compression change significantly. Also, manager may think that X is "over-smart" or "over-qualified". (Note: Manager may well receive the patent draft and appreciate X as well. But, X would not be sure as to which of the two scenarios would occur. X has not come up on an idea that is part of the job description. But, X's idea may also be applicable to Y's software policies. X has come up with the idea during the period of employment with Y. So, to avoid risking future employability, X is seeking a review from Y)
  3. X has tried the helpline method. But, X has been told to contact manager for approval as a first step.
  4. X may end up getting stuck at the approval process itself.

X will be safe for sure if X does not patent the idea and does not talk to anyone about it. But, X is not willing to let go of that idea and X needs a patent for it (either through Y or by himself/herself). X is not doing it because he/she would get financial/corporate rewards (He/she has not been notified about the same either).

Thanks for your efforts in reading and answering this.

References:

https://www.quora.com/How-are-patents-filed-in-big-companies

https://www.quora.com/How-do-big-companies-reward-their-employees-for-patents

  • This is quite a complicated question (perhaps 10 embedded questions). This site works best if you pose just one or perhaps two closely related questions. – Eric Shain Dec 6 '17 at 14:54
  • @EricShain Thanks for the insight. I have edited the question. Does it look fine now? – Akshay Rathod Dec 6 '17 at 15:01
  • It is still very long and complicated. I will attempt to answer it in a little while when I have some time. – Eric Shain Dec 6 '17 at 15:04
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I am not a lawyer, but I have 30 years of working in industry and quite a few patents all of which are the property of my employers. I don't think you can get a definitive answer on this site as each company may have its own employment policies. In general, the rule of thumb is if you are being paid for the work, the work product (which includes inventions) is the property of the company. Indeed, depending on the company, even inventions done on your own time but enabled through knowledge obtained by the specific employment might be considered company property. Lets say you work for a tech company and have very proprietary knowledge of a company internal semiconductor process. Using this knowledge to invent an improvement to that process could possibly be considered the companies property even if you had the idea and did the work at home.

As to the invention process, this also is highly variable company-by-company. Even at a company, it can change over time. Some companies have a formal invention disclosure process. Other companies don't do patents at all. I have worked for a consulting company where any patentable ideas would be the property of the company we were working for. Many software companies don't do patents. This is perhaps especially true for companies that can keep the software internal. Trade secret can be a more effective strategy. If there is a legal department, I would think that calling them up to inquire about the intellectual property process would be the way to go. I will say that the inventor shouldn't be drafting the patent. That is the job for the patent attorneys. The inventor needs to be able to document the idea and communicate the invention to the attorneys.

Yes some companies do reward inventors. Some have cash awards, some award company stock. Some even award a percentage of licensing income. Some do none of the above.

As for your specific scenario, it has more to do with employment culture than the specific patent process. I personally wouldn't work at a company or for a manager who punished an employee for being innovative assuming they get their assigned work done well. However, I understand each person's employment situation is different.

  • This is the best answer ever. Thanks. I would mark this as answer for sure if no one else puts up any other answer. Two points - 30 years experience and company-by-company procedures were all that were needed. Thanks! – Akshay Rathod Dec 6 '17 at 18:33
  • Also, it would be helpful if you can add this: Whose approval would be enough to patent it? Manager? Director? Corporate Legal Team only? How should X document this before patenting by himself/herself? Printout of the email? – Akshay Rathod Dec 6 '17 at 18:43
  • @AkshayRathod Who approves depends on the company. I would caution your friend not to patent himself unless he is sure the company won’t claim ownership. Lawsuits are expensive. If you like the answer please consider accepting it by clicking the checkmark. – Eric Shain Dec 6 '17 at 18:56
  • @AkshayRathod ask the manager, there should be a department responsible for this. If not, bad for your friend, makes the situation very tough. – DonQuiKong Dec 6 '17 at 19:52
  • In almost all technology companies, all employees involved with R&D are required to sign an agreement on day one assigning things they invent during their employment to the company. I would suggest your friend takes a look at what he or she has signed. What the company can demand varies from state to state. Even if nothing was signed, the state may have laws that affect the situation. – George White Dec 6 '17 at 20:39

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