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One of the Amazon leadership principles is "invent and simplify", so I suppose Amazon encourages their employees to be creative and to fill new patent applications. I have heard a rumour about puzzle pieces and I would like to know more about it.

How did that original way of awarding employees begin? What do the puzzle pieces look like? Are they unique pieces that fit among them? In that case, how many pieces do you need to complete the puzzle?

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    I suspect this is off topic as it isn’t really about the patenting process outside is something specific to Amazon. Most big companies have a patent award system of some sort. – Eric Shain Jul 11 '18 at 1:28
  • I'm just curious about the inspiring ways to build a creative atmosphere that encourages patent filling and prosecution. Amazon has a special interest for me, because I think they do not give a monetary reward (I may be wrong). I do not know the details (that's why I posted the question), but the romour that I heard about Amazon implies that their employees are more involved in the patenting process than others in software big companies. And puzzle pieces change with each step in the patent process. – David Jul 11 '18 at 6:46
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    Unless an Amazon employee sees your question you aren’t likely to get an answer here. In any case, I still believe the question isn’t a good fit for this site which is about the actual filing and understanding of patents. – Eric Shain Jul 11 '18 at 12:55
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    quora.com/… I do work with Amazon and have not heard anything about monetary rewards. Also, at other places with significant financial incentives team leads routinely try to add their entire team as inventors so they all get credit, I do not see that at Amazon. – BobtheMagicMoose Jul 20 '18 at 13:32
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    At my former company the patent attorneys decided who was listed as an inventor, not team leaders. Only investors get a monetary award. – Eric Shain Jul 22 '18 at 16:42
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Longtime Amazon employee here: I don't recall when Amazon started awarding puzzle pieces, but it was sometime before 2008. Audible (an Amazon company) has a writeup of the practice: http://stn.audible.com/patents/

In short, the pieces are transparent Lucite, about 4" square and 1" thick, with tabs & slots that fit with other identical pieces. A Google image search for "amazon patent puzzle pieces" will give you a good idea. They award colorless pieces for submitting a patent, with generic "Congratulations on inventing something" wording. You get a blue piece with your name & patent number when the USPTO awards the patent, many years later.

That's it, no direct monetary award. So why do Amazon employees even bother? Two main reasons: 1) The process makes it extremely effortless for people to file for a patent: First, the inventors submit their idea in a very short description. Someone in the IP department reviews it for alignment with the business goals of Amazon, prior art & related work, etc. If they decide to move forward, the inventors will send the patent lawyers whatever documentation they have on the idea, and then have a meeting to talk it through. Maybe two, depending on the complexity. The lawyers will then draft the patent application, and send it out for review & feedback. Another meeting to go through any feedback, and once the application is final, they'll submit it. In the end, for the employee it's a tiny incremental amount of effort on top of the work they've already put into developing & building the idea in the first place.

The 2nd reason people do it is that it is a natural side-effect of the "invent & simplify" culture. There is a large breadth of teams at Amazon, each trying to solve deep problems within their domain. This creates no end to the number of interesting problems requiring workable, but creative solutions. The kind of people who enjoy doing this kind of work find it naturally rewarding, and they're also recognized for it in performance reviews & promotions, which then leads to higher compensation.

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