Almost a year ago I worked at a small tech startup. While there I participated in the development of a way to extract data from OSI headers for networking applications in FPGAs.
I have since left that startup and now work at a different company, where I intended to use some of the ideas that I used at the startup for solving similar problems, but in a completely different domain (my old and new companies do not in any way compete). I have taken no source code with me. I only want to reuse some of these techniques that I used previously. I have in fact reimplemented much of this idea at my new company and am in the process of using it.
Unbeknownst to me in the year I have been away, my old company has apparently filed documentation to patent this idea. This morning my old boss contacted me an requested that I sign some documentation for the filing process. If I don't sign, my boss is likely going to be suspicious of why I am not willing to sign this patent, and why I would leave money on the table that he is offering.
The patent document is so broadly worded as to make me feel that I cannot extract data from OSI headers in an FPGA in any way such that I could not be accused of infringing on this patent. Personally I think patenting this is ridiculous. How can this possibly be so unique as to warrant a patent? But I'm not a lawyer.
So I am curious what the community might say about this. Do I just discard the work I have done at my new company?