Question about Intellectual Property and Ideas (in a job as well)?

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Forgive me if this sounds a little uninformed but in the world of academia or engineering or work and what-have-you, how does intellectual property? When a company hires you to design something, say a motor, do they own all work that you produce in that given time? What about if I work on something else and patent it in the time I am employed by that company (related or unrelated to that project)? Someone told me that if you're a physicist and you're employed by a research group, every idea you have belongs to them even if you do it in your spare time and if you're an engineer then you can't do consulting on the side. It seems like a strange concept but then again I am wet behind the ears so maybe this is de rigeur. If anyone could clarify this for me I'd greatly appreciate it.
 

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  • #2
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Someone told me that if you're a physicist and you're employed by a research group, every idea you have belongs to them even if you do it in your spare time
This is not true. Nobody would sign such a contract !

For what I can say, when you are a physicist you post your article on the arXiv as soon as you submit it for publication (except some journal which still refuse this system, but in particle physics we're rather open with that).
 
  • #3
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This is not true. Nobody would sign such a contract !

For what I can say, when you are a physicist you post your article on the arXiv as soon as you submit it for publication (except some journal which still refuse this system, but in particle physics we're rather open with that).

Yes it is true.
 
  • #4
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Yes it is true.
Do you know of a physicist employed by a research group whose cooking ideas and musical composition would not belong to himself ? I personally know of a physicist who is publishing not under his employer's lab name for some research he does on his own during evening and week ends ! It is pretty rare actually.

Finally, somebody who would sign such a contract would probably not have very valuable ideas in general anyway.
 
  • #5
russ_watters
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  • #6
LowlyPion
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Forgive me if this sounds a little uninformed but in the world of academia or engineering or work and what-have-you, how does intellectual property? When a company hires you to design something, say a motor, do they own all work that you produce in that given time? What about if I work on something else and patent it in the time I am employed by that company (related or unrelated to that project)? Someone told me that if you're a physicist and you're employed by a research group, every idea you have belongs to them even if you do it in your spare time and if you're an engineer then you can't do consulting on the side. It seems like a strange concept but then again I am wet behind the ears so maybe this is de rigeur. If anyone could clarify this for me I'd greatly appreciate it.
It is not uncommon to require technical contributors to assign their commercial rights to intellectual property to the hand that pays you. With jobs contractions companies have more leverage.

You can expect that at a minimum any development you do specifically on a project belongs to the company. If they choose to patent it, they may put your name on it, but they get the license, not you unless previously agreed on.

If you develop cold fusion in the garage on weekends while you are employed, you might want to be sure you are no longer employed by the company when you choose to disclose it for the purpose of a patent. If it is unrelated to the business of your employer, then you likely have no problem once you are clear. If however this research is also something your employer is pursuing as well, the burden may be on you to demonstrate your "inspiration" was after leaving the employ and the longer the time later the better.
 
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  • #8
russ_watters
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the OP clearly said
... Read the rest of the sentence, including what is in parenthases:
related or unrelated to that project
...and....
and if you're an engineer then you can't do consulting on the side.
....also presumably related.
 
  • #9
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Well I don't know exactly what the OP meant but it's quite obvious to me. Indeed, if you get an idea during the week end that was inspired to you by a discussion with a co-worker during the week, it would not be fair if you could patent it. Where the line is drawn is a matter of common sense. But I never heard of a problematic situation in high energy physics research. Researchers in fundamental science are not in it for the money anyway ! :tongue2:
 
  • #10
If that means patent which can be used in industy,
It will be very difficult to own your idea.

But if that is prior right about scientific idea.
It is possible to protect your idea.
following is my advice.

1. If you are graduate student, do not consult your idea with professor.
They can steal your idea. Submit directly to journal.

2. If you are amateur scientist, do not post to Independent Research forum in
Physicsforums at the first stage of publication, and do not post to moderated usenet group
at the first stage of publication.
Before that kind of advertisement,
make your prior right safe, such as self book publishing.

3. Arxiv endorsement is only a license for apprentice.
If you are not apprentice of master, It will be very difficult to be endorsed.
Arxiv is only a electronic data, that can be vapored or changed.
Book publishing is most clear safe and time enduring method to protect your idea.
 
  • #11
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If you are not apprentice of master, It will be very difficult to be endorsed.
If you are an amateur, the question does not really apply to you.
 
  • #12
If you are an amateur, the question does not really apply to you.
Yes, that can not be applied to me now.
but that can be applied to graduate students or undergraduate students.
 
  • #13
If you want to protect your scientific idea,
you must become a belligerent and distrustful person.
That make you a unpleasant one to others,

But I am generous to that kind of persons,
because I understand their anxiety.
 
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  • #14
LowlyPion
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As an undergraduate or graduate student anything you work out on your own is yours, subject of course to others not poaching it as noted.

That is of course in the case where you are paying your tuition. You are the one there to learn and what you learn and apply then would be yours since the university is your resource, in the same sense that say a library would be a resource if you went there to study a subject that you decided to patent.

For graduate research associates though, where grants are funding research for instance and where you may be getting tuition reimbursement for your work that advances the project that is funded, then you and the university might develop an issue about ownership of commercial rights that might flow from your work.
 
  • #15
cristo
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1. If you are graduate student, do not consult your idea with professor.
They can steal your idea. Submit directly to journal.
You're kidding, right? Such behaviour is not conducive to a good working relationship between a student and supervisor.

2. If you are amateur scientist, do not post to Independent Research forum in
Physicsforums at the first stage of publication, and do not post to moderated usenet group
at the first stage of publication.
Before that kind of advertisement,
make your prior right safe, such as self book publishing.

3. Arxiv endorsement is only a license for apprentice.
If you are not apprentice of master, It will be very difficult to be endorsed.
Arxiv is only a electronic data, that can be vapored or changed.
Book publishing is most clear safe and time enduring method to protect your idea.
Sorry, but such 'advice' sounds like the advice of a crackpot. 'Self book publishing' is not the way scientific work is communicated.
 
  • #16
You're kidding, right? Such behaviour is not conducive to a good working relationship between a student and supervisor..
No, I am not kidding.

Sorry, but such 'advice' sounds like the advice of a crackpot. 'Self book publishing' is not the way scientific work is communicated.
Yes, I am a crank.
I proudly declare myself as a crank.
Book publishing is my right,
nobody can not block my publishing,
nobody can not steal my prior right.

If you are too sensitive to be called as a crank,
your prior right will be in danger.
 
  • #17
cristo
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Yes, I am a crank.
I think this is enough to disregard any of your 'advice.'
 
  • #18
I think this is enough to disregard any of your 'advice.'
Almost every theorists are cranks.
99.9 % articles in mathematical physics journals are "not even wrong" or "crack pot".
 
  • #19
russ_watters
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No, almost every theorist works inside the scientific process. People who work outside the scientific process are cranks and not theorists. The two are mutually exclusive by definition. No crank has ever made a major contribution to the body of scientific knowlege.
 
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  • #20
No, almost every theorist works inside the scientific process. People who work outside the scientific process are cranks and not theorists. The two are mutually exclusive by definition. No crank has ever made a major contribution to the body of scientific knowlege.
You must see reality.
In real world, the word "crank" is synonym of amateur theorist.
I am amateur theorist, so I am a crank.
 
  • #21
Astronuc
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Forgive me if this sounds a little uninformed but in the world of academia or engineering or work and what-have-you, how does intellectual property? When a company hires you to design something, say a motor, do they own all work that you produce in that given time? What about if I work on something else and patent it in the time I am employed by that company (related or unrelated to that project)? Someone told me that if you're a physicist and you're employed by a research group, every idea you have belongs to them even if you do it in your spare time and if you're an engineer then you can't do consulting on the side. It seems like a strange concept but then again I am wet behind the ears so maybe this is de rigeur. If anyone could clarify this for me I'd greatly appreciate it.
When I was hired, I signed a comprehensive employment contract, and it included a section on intellectual property. The initial contract reserved rights to all scientific and technical ideas, theories, . . . . I had that revised to only ideas directly related to work.

My company expected me to be working after hours on ideas to help grow the company or introduce new products to the clientele. That's the nature of salaried work.
 
  • #22
brewnog
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My employer owns all my ideas related to their business (rather than my work). I only work on engines, but my employer has the rights to any ideas I have about construction machinery, gearboxes, generators, mining equipment or financial processes, whether I develop them in my own time or not.

Fair? Debatable. Common sense? Definitely not. But it's a term of my employment to be honoured.
 
  • #23
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Fair? Debatable. Common sense? Definitely not. But it's a term of my employment to be honoured.
I agree with you, I was only talking about high energy physics research when I said common sense. I am unfamiliar with professional policies outside this community.

At the lab, we have a training which says we are subject to "termination" if we (for instance) ship a bad hard drive for replacement without appropriate authorisation. That is part of the program to protect intellectual property. I hope they meant "employement termination" and not "employee termination".
 
  • #24
Averagesupernova
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I worked for a test equipment manufacturer who made me sign an agreement that whatever idea I came up with that was related to electronic test equipment belonged to them. One of my co-workers refused to sign it and left the company. He had already started a company that manufactured automotive electronics and technically one could say the 2 companies were close enough related that what my coworker had done he would stand to lose. Interestingly enough, I later went to work for him and had to sign the same agreement.
 
  • #25
LowlyPion
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Generally though employers are more than generous in assigning credit to those on their staff that develop the ideas that may become patentable, carrying their names to the patent and so forth, maybe even a bonus if it means real savings and competitive advantage. This becomes a valuable future resume asset to the employee, as well as a certain interest in the company wanting to keep you inventing on their behalf. Job security isn't that bad a deal. As well they like being able to promote the idea to investors about the creativeness of the technical staff, in seeking future funding and promoting the value of their stock.

If you are really clever, and manage to harvest a Nobel from your cleverness, that's yours. So's the award money.
 

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