Is there any way to find out if a patent application is connected to results from a hackathon? For example, it has been said that DropBox, Inc. filed two patent applications (password strength meter, two party authentication process) based on the results from an company-wide hackathon. I am trying to find out if any other companies have similar results from hackathons.

  • Why is important how the inventions are conceived? – Soren Aug 16 '14 at 16:33

I believe the answer to your question is no, there is no way to know if a patent application is related to a hackathon. I have helped file patents from hackathons and there is nothing different that would be detectable in the patent itself. In fact, many companies would be unlikely to be able to tell you if the patent was part of a hackathon or not, unless they tracked that specifically in their internal database.

There may be particular hackathons that would allow you to track their patents, for instance if there was an assignment clause in the participant agreement and all assignments were to a particular entity. That said, most hackathon participants (and organizers) don't actually know who would end up owning the IP, so tracking where it ends up would be particularly hard. (See https://hbr.org/2013/06/who-owns-hackathon-inventions)

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Well, you could look at companies that you know hold hackathons, search through only their patents, and then maybe search for patents with a high number of inventors, or something like that. But you'd probably still be left with a lot to hand-parse. I think your better bet would be to ask the companies directly.

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I participated in a hackathon which was held at a top tech company around five years ago. We were all students back then, and they liked our idea so much they offered us internships to finish it. We ended up working there as interns over the summer, developing our idea.

Eventually, the internship has ended and the company submitted a patent on our system. We didn't get any compensation or incentives.

So my answer is - does it matter? will you sue a major tech company? We thought of this option, but this is a bureaucratic nightmare. If you have a good idea you think is worth don't present it in any hackathon. Even if you did end up patenting it yourself, the hosting company might ask for royalties.

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  • I bet if you read the employment agreement you signed as part of the internship you'll find the company owns any intellectual property that results from the internship. Probably similar language embedded in the hackathon agreement. – Eric Shain Mar 7 '17 at 22:11

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