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Google Tried to Patent My Work After a Job Interview (patentpandas.org)
1797 points by jerryX 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 487 comments





I met/had a similar experience with Google ATAP in 2013 (was Motorala ATAP then; Google recently bought them) though not for a job interview but to discuss working together to build our tech SpeakerBlast into the Moto X.

They asked if we ever thought about selling our technology to them before the meeting and at the meeting they baited us for how our tech worked saying we'd like to work with you tell us how it works. Once we did they left the room (Dugan's 2nd right hand man at the time and another) & 3 minutes later showed us the door saying the "race is on."

They have since been awarded patents for audio syncing across phones.

Many here will say that's just how Silicon Valley works.... takes advantage and stomps on the little guy innovators & their dreams. That's not professional and I met with many other companies like Samsung who acted with the utmost respect & professionalism towards us. Yet, Google whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," can't act in the same fashion?


This is a level of douchiness I cannot fathom. What possesses these people to act in this fashion and how do they sleep at night? How is this not seen as clearly unethical behavior? A clear violation of Wheaton's Law, here.

I mean... I could easily take that lollipop from that naïve baby in that baby carriage... but I don't, simply because I'm Not A Dick™.

Did all of Silicon Valley get the wrong takeaway from the Apple/Xerox thing, or something?


Why do people carry out muggings? Because they gain from it. Morality and legality aren't just divergent - they're orthogonal. Just like one can perform moral and immoral actions in physical space, one can perform moral or immoral actions using the legal system. Despite the goal of the legal system being to punish immoral behavior, being able to actually formalize that is up against the limit of complexity - as soon as rules are made to discourage bad behavior, the lawful bad actors move on to using those very laws to carry out attacks.

A major meta problem in the current system is that even when bad behavior is able to be formally judged and is called out, there is still little downside for getting caught. Under a functioning legal system, Google would have to make OP whole for their time/stress/legalfees/etc incurred, and would therefore be discouraged from attacking again. Alas.

The individuals have no problem sleeping at night because there is no shortage of narratives to pick from to justify their actions - then further normalized by their peer group engaging in similar business. Nobody sees themselves as a bad person.


Great comment. Is this a fundamental limit? The justice system itself pricing most people out of justice. A reasonable judge could make the the OP whole, and discourage attacks. But access to that judge is far, far too expensive.

In the absence of a working justice system, are we helpless? Mostly, yes. But Google's reputation will take a big hit here, rightly so. Ideally, the individuals involved at Google would also take a big reputation hit. In an ideal world when they apply for a job, these individuals will be rejected for their immoral, unethical behavior.


>Ideally, the individuals involved at Google would also take a big reputation hit.

Ideally yes, in reality? the problem of a system that rewards trickery and deceit is that eventually the opposite (truth, honor, respect, etc) becomes worthless. You even have countries like mine that are so down this rabbit hole that being called a "good guy" is almost an insult because it just means you're simpleton who gets scammed.

Public reputation is only good in an environment where (public)reputation matters and in this situation the (private)reputation of that google employee within the corporation as a guy who makes money for the company matters more than if a limited portion of the public (us here) knows he outright steals things from other people through deceit. In general the average consumer couldn't care less about the actual individuals behind the products they are using or the controversies behind their creation. The vast, vast majority of computer users don't know that Xerox actually created the GUI and not Apple or Microsoft, and they don't care. So expecting them to provide justice in lieu of the system its a tall order to say the least.


Why do elite decision makers, CEO's, boards of directors, make decisions that will certainly have adverse effects, that will literally kill people (eg. Trafigura), just to make more profit? Despite the fact that they are all already individually multi-millionaires and could not really materially improve their lives with more money?

I've ruminated on this.

I think the only reason that could explain such excess is competitiveness. To them, it is like a game. Its not about getting another yacht, its about beating the other guy. I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike.


I've tended to think that a lot of it is about different social circles. If everyone you know makes $50-100k/yr, you feel fine making that yourself, and may not even be sure what you'd do with a million dollars. If your social circle is full of millionaires and multi-millionaries, all of the sudden making a million feels like barely getting by and you think about all of the cool stuff you see people around you getting that you could get if you had tens of millions.

I think it's different past ~$150k salary too (probably more like $200k-$300k in the valley). At that point there's this weird net worth dick measuring contest that becomes a lot of people at that level's xbox gamer score. As in it's this number that they've attached a whole lot of identity to to be able to compare to their peers. It has very little to about what they can actually do with that number and more that they just want a bigger one than their friends.

>To them, it is like a game. Its not about getting another yacht, its about beating the other guy.

This is presumably what might inspire a billionaire to sue Forbes over their position in Forbes published rich list - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-saudi-billionaire...

Money is entirely ego-points for people like that.


"its about beating the other guy. I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike."

I think their sense of identity is tied to their performance. I noticed the same thing in sports or even in school were students compare exam scores.


> that will literally kill people (eg. Trafigura)

I had to google that. Shocking story.

> To them, it is like a game.

I think you're right. I also think Trump (ahem) once said something along these lines: "At some point, all this stops being money and is just numbers that you want to keep going up." That would support your competitiveness assertion. (It might also explain why men tend to make more than women, but I digress.)

> I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike.

nah, that's just the variable-ratio reinforcement schedule :) https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-variable-ratio-schedu...


Selection bias? You need to have a certain amount of ruthlessness to become a CEO or a serious director.

>>What possesses these people to act in this fashion and how do they sleep at night?

It is very simple, they only care about themselves. Everything else is irrelevant.


It is greed and a hefty bonus.. and if they have to walk over 50 corpses, it doesn't really matter. There is no point trying to discuss ethics with a snake. Those people have a distorted sense of honor (or not at all).

One word: greed!

”For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” ‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭6:10‬


Money. And money. And pathological drive to win.

It's sneaky and underhanded and shady and evil.

Let's use a different real-world example. An acquaintance shows me an "attic treasure" that I know is worth at least $20k on the open market. Do I offer them $100 and not tell them what it might really be worth? Does it depend on how well I know them?

In my case, even if I did not know the person at all and never expected to interact with them again (basically, the recipe for non-cooperation, according to Axelrod's https://smile.amazon.com/Evolution-Cooperation-Revised-Rober...), I'd offer them about $5k (given some reselling risk and effort on my part, which I believe is worth at least some of the difference). If they were smart then they'd refuse and do their own homework. If they simply wanted to accept the price, they could.

I would NOT offer to take it off their hands for free. "More space in your attic!"

I'm sure that Google didn't owe this woman anything and didn't know her from a hole in the wall but... This is just machiavellian ruthlessness.

Don't be greedy, people. Make mutually-beneficial deals. It's not zero-sum (even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head).


The analogy breaks down, though - in Google's disfavour and in OP's favour.

OP knew that she had something valuable. But she also thought of it as a free good (libre, not gratis). As I interpret it this is because she knew that her work builds on the work of others.

At Google, they probably knew about the intellectual background of OP's innovation, too. And yet, they tried to patent it. So much about their intellectual honesty.


> (even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head).

If I have a hamburger patty and a hot dog bun, and you have a hot dog bun and a hamburger patty, we both win if we trade (it's not zero-sum).

You can generalize this across more than one party and more than two goods pretty easily.


Assuming no caloric difference between the buns and between the meats, the perceived increase in value is purely aesthetic/intangible though!

The analogy wasn't really about hot dogs and hamburgers, but about complementarity.

Assume that you have something that has a complementary relationship with something I have, but doesn't have a complementary relationship with anything you have. Assume that I'm in the same situation in relation to you. If we trade objects, we both benefit. Hot dog buns and hamburger buns are designed to be complements of certain respective forms of ground meats, hence the naming scheme.


> the perceived increase in value is purely aesthetic

Aesthetic value is still value. Most people would prefer not to eat Nutraloaf three meals a day.


Eating a hamburger in a hot dog bun would be messier than eating a hot dog in a hamburger bun, so the person with the hamburger and hot dog bun has a stronger incentive to trade.

>(even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head)

The earth isn't a closed thermodynamic system ;)


They get big and go public. Only a matter of time before the bad behavior starts to happen. Gotta keep that stock price up.

Not saying private companies can't engage in heinous shenanigans either, they sure can.


Seeing that Apple didn’t steal anything from Xerox. It was very much a negotiation so what lesson would that be?

https://zurb.com/blog/steve-jobs-and-xerox-the-truth-about-i...


Sure, but the popular recollection is not that story, it's "good artists borrow; great artists steal"

White collar sociopathy. These guys at the top lack an empathetic intuition.

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...


You are a Nice Guy (TM) but business is business

it's actually not a bad thing that it's one of the few places you can actually be an asshole without feeling bad for it though


Business can be respectful, honorable and still successful, so that phrase is mostly a lame blanket excuse to not put in effort towards such goals.

And, sorry, but it's hard to escape the indicative aspect of liking the oportunity to be "an asshole without feeling bad about it"...


Well the point is that its nice to see the world how you would like it to be instead of what it is. In practice some people are asshole, egoistical and take pleasure in it and i would argue life tend to reward that kind of behaviour (more money, more power and more girls). And they make fun of you.

Wow that's crazy. I didn't know they did stuff like that.

Also I didn't know Google had patents for syncing audio across phones. I wonder if any of the mobile apps (like AmpMe [1]) have to pay some license fees.

I once spent an evening researching the different apps that could sync audio across multiple devices [2]. I also wanted to build my own app, so tried to see if it would be possible (only if you have a jailbroken phone.) I just wanted to play the same audio on two pairs of AirPods. I found out that the Samsung Galaxy S9 has a Dual Audio feature, and the iPhone X can theoretically support this with Bluetooth 5.0. And the AmpMe app can sync audio across multiple phones. (I was also really surprised to find out that they're a pretty huge company with 20 full time employees.)

[1] https://www.ampme.com

[2] https://www.evernote.com/l/ACo7ItT-pItKkZoYf0YJy0raGhN5255FR...


> AmpMe app can sync audio across multiple phones. (I was also really surprised to find out that they're a pretty huge company with 20 full time employees.)

The owner is a sketchy guy that made his money using adware (and still is) named Wajam.

I guess AmpMe is what he hope will be his legit way to make money. Until it happens, it's probably bleeding money and is founded by his adware company.


Do you know AmpMe's owner?

I mean I don't have any context, but surely this is a similar technology they have implemented with their Google Home speaker system?

Oh, right! I've heard of Sonos, but I didn't know you could sync up multiple Google Home speakers. Yeah I guess that's probably the main reason for having those patents.

Cool ours syncs audio on any IP device..desktop, laptop, tablets, phones, IOT devices, whatever

Is that not a fairly simple technology? You're basically measuring latencies (for which there exist very accurate solutions) and accounting for clock drift (again not difficult - USB audio did that many many years ago).

I guess you can get fancy if the devices have microphones but I still think it wouldn't be difficult. Like one man-year worth of work.


Creating a web player that syncs audio across all types of IP devices where you can play, pause, fast forward, seek within a track & more as seen in this video isn’t trivial!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ9itwp_wYc&index=20&list=UU...


How close is that? It sounds as though there is a very slight spread, but that might be just the chosen music.

This is (one of the reasons) why you sign NDAs before discussing your technology.

A mutual NDA was signed as seen here https://ryanspahn.com/motorola-google-Expired-NDA2013.pdf.

We started SpeakerBlast in March 2013 & were meeting with Google in April 2013. We filed a provisional before the meeting & have a patent in the patent office.


NDAs generally aren't worth the paper they're written on, but holy hell is that one a piece of work. The "residuals" concept basically gives them an open invite to copy anything they like so long as they didn't "intentionally memorize" it. Establishing intent is no easy task.

The one thing that NDAs do extremely well, and the reason that companies like them signed is protect against prior art (the opposite of what we're talking about above). Without an NDA, if you've had a conversation with another company about your tech, then it has become public domain and you can be prevented from patenting. With NDA that problem doesn't exist.

Conversation with a company doesn't count as prior art under new first-to-publish rules.

Yes, establishing intent to memorize is near impossible. You would have to have something like written records (e.g. emails) stating the intent.

The tech came a long way after meeting them... its now a web app driven by JS that plays, pauses, forwards, rewinds audio in sync as seen in this 2014 video...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ9itwp_wYc&index=20&list=UU...

We revived it after seeing Google's April 2018 patent & are excited about finally getting it out to the public.


An NDA is only as good as the lawyers backing them up.

Useless. Savvy inventors get at least a provisional patent application on file before meeting with predatory companies like goog, ms, intel, etc.

We filed before the meeting and have a patent in the patent office.

“Don't be evil"? Let's see if there's an uproar by Google employees this time. My bet is on "fat chance".

Considering all the other corporate strategies Google employees have taken a public stand on lately, I wouldn't be surprised if there were serious fatigue on both ends - on corporate, for dealing with the constant rebellions killing major revenue sources (ex:- project maven's death being the end of any more government contracts); and for employees, who are likely sick of protesting an endless stream of obviously bad stuff while risking career alienation (ex:- dragonfly).

What's not immediately publicly evident is the opportunity cost vis a vis attrition and new hires - how many people have left from disillusionment? How many prospective employees are actively shunning Google directly because of these policies? (While a number might provide explicit feedback to recruiters about their reasons to reject, it's probable a silent majority is silently avoiding all contacts from Google recruiting.) At least personally speaking, I had a vastly more positive view of google around 2012 when I started grad school (more or less my dream company to work for at the time) than what I had when graduating (sufficient to decline any recruiting requests).


In retrospect why on Earth did we ever think a company whose motto was "Don't Be Evil" wouldn't be? It's like meeting someone who introduces themselves with, "Hi I'm John and I am definitely not planning to rape you to death and wear your skin as a mask."

Reminds me of an episode of silicon valley where they write some of their implementation on a rival company whiteboard.

Didn’t they spoof this in the Silicon Valley series?

Yes. Season 2, part of the Homicide Energy Drink plot-line. EndFrame lures PP into a meeting, ostensibly to discuss funding, but instead brain rapes[1] PP.

1 - Erlich's term, not mine.


Thank you for sharing your experience and backing up the original post; this is something I will remember should the opportunity to work with anyone associated with ATAP come up.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this on Silicon Valley. Have been telling people who don't work in IT that it's pretty much a document from season one, and they refuse to believe me.

document -> documentary?

> Google whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," can't act in the same fashion?

may be that's why they change it with doing right things (for own purpose) - https://bgr.com/2015/10/04/google-dont-be-evil-alphabet/


Wasn't there a Silicon Valley (the HBO show) episode about something similar?

Ah, found the episode: Season 2 Episode 2, "Runaway Devaluation".


I thought they dropped the "Don't Be Evil" motto a long time ago.

That sounds downright awful.

This is a theft. They should be in prison.

But Samsung isn't an SV company, so it's to be expected.

Nightmares.

Certain actors have been getting away with murder for over a decade now. We have a few lucky first movers that have become alpha predators and are now stifling innovation. I can't really see any rational argument for this type of behavior benefiting our society or market at all - beyond religious adherence to the free market or if Google is working exclusively with your political party (wink wink). Hopefully regulators wake up in the near future - societies that don't protect entrepreneurs won't have any.

bUt bUt...ChInA dOeS iP tHeFt

We've banned this account for using HN primarily for ideological battle.

Also for repeatedly posting flamebait and ignoring our requests to stop.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


at least in this case, they aren't wrong. on hacker news, there is a strong bias towards how silicon valley likes to operate and against china.

Can you point me to the requests to stop? I've seen exactly one, a long time ago. I'm not personally attacking people, and I do contribute here with a positive upvote score. I don't see the issue.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18504457

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17807056

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17767666

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17486112

But the main issue is using HN primarily for ideological or political battle. That's directly against the spirit of this site, and destroys it more insidiously than incivility does.

Positive vote scores, alas, aren't an indicator of whether comments are good for HN or not. The most indignant and ideological comments routinely get upvoted. That's one reason they're insidious.


This honestly seems to be an issue with what my personal opinions are about certain topics. I do not "flame bait", I am serious in my positions and don't seek any type of nefarious response. I don't see how pointing out that nobody bats an eye when Google does what China does is "flamebait", it's just an observation. Other links were benign in nature or then sourced as factual right below 'mod' comments.

Thanks.


I'm sure you're serious but that's not the standard here. Nor is it based on opinions. We moderate users with opposing opinions just as heavily.

Flamebait is a matter of effect, not intent, just like tossing lit matches in dry forests. It's our job to prevent flamewarring users from burning this site down, thereby ruining it for the majority who want to use it as intended. The site guidelines distill long experience about what kinds of comments do and don't have that effect.


Google’s motto was don’t be evil, they’ve clearly changed their mind.

Ignore corporate claims such as "don't be evil."

The problem isn't that those claims were lies. I'm sure Google's founders actually intended Google to "not be evil." The problem is that a corporation (or a government, university, church, fraternal organization, you name it) is made up of people. As such things get big they end up being made up of many, many people. Leaders change. Managers change.

When an org gets big some of its people will be assholes because some people are assholes.

Google has been through several CEOs and is a publicly traded company with the latter meaning that it's subject to market pressure and activist investors. It's also a company large enough and relevant enough to be a "national security" interest, making it likely subject to government and intelligence infiltration, pressure, and micromanagement.


So it's OK for them to be evil?

No, I'm saying you shouldn't take the words of corporations the same way you take the words of an individual person. A corporation is not even a singular entity. Corporations can't have values because they're composed of a rotating set of minds that may not all hold those values and there is no way of guaranteeing values will be preserved into the future.

I do not mean to be mean but why on earth would you volunteer how your tech works when someone asks without any legal protection? Talk about clueless


She worded that way too diplomatically.

What google did here is one of the evilest things you can do.

They are taking open research and trying to close it off. Research that they didn't even contribute to! Research that they didn't need patent rights for because it's already free for them to use. But they can't allow anyone after them to have the same privilege can they?


These are just some of the reasons patents are fundamentally broken and the patent system as a whole should be scrapped. Another big issue is that, like most any law, enforcing it costs significant money, and that cost scales depending upon who your opponent is. The cost for a little guy to enforce a patent claim against google is vastly out of proportion to the cost of google to enforce a patent claim against a little guy. This means that the patent system ends up being another form of regulatory capture used to squash competition. If we just removed patents, major corporations would be just as free as today to steal from the little guys, but at least they couldn't then weaponize their patents to crush the original inventors.

Not just patents, but all intellectual property. Copyright is arguably even more broken, lasting a century or more. It's ridiculous. My disdain for the DMCA is immeasurable, and the upcoming EU directive looks even worse.

Not only are these systems broken in their implementation, but there is little evidence that even in their most pure form they accomplished their supposed intention.


Trademark regulations are fine. It's just patents and copyrights.

How many patents the group or each employee gets awarded per year is probably one of their employee metrics (as in one application per X months). It's not surprising that someone would grab at low hanging fruit or develop unethical methods like that to fulfill performance requirements. It's probably not the first time the group did that.

"You get what you incentivize..."

Google ATAP did similar to me as I noted above...

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18567672


Maybe. Or maybe the conversation spurred some new idea in the same general field, and that’s what they were trying to patent. This post doesn’t say anything about what the claims were actually directed to.

IANAL, but 35 U.S. Code § 115 requires that "each individual who is the inventor or a joint inventor of a claimed invention in an application for patent shall execute an oath or declaration" that they believe "himself or herself to be the original inventor or an original joint inventor of a claimed invention in the application," and acknowledging "that any willful false statement made in such declaration or statement is punishable under section 1001 of title 18 by fine or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both."

So... How is this not literally a crime?


Would set a good example now this has come to light and especially since they tried to include the author as inventor. Proves they knew they were not the inventors.

This. Google should also probably take disciplinary actions.

You are kidding right? They even encourage it by making you sign a visitor agreement so that you have no right to the IP you discuss.

Invention is not the same as assignment. You can sign away assignment, but inventorship remains with the inventor(s).

It is. And since recently there is even case law and supreme court decision for this:

https://www.patentdocs.org/2018/10/supreme-court-denies-cert...


Denying cert is the supreme court deciding not to hear the case, not a supreme court decision on the content of the case.

That case appears to be civil, not criminal?


AIUI, the Supreme Court only takes cases that require their ruling to clarify interpretations of existing law or a lower correct incorrectly interpreted a law. Denying cert means their is no clarification to be made to existing law, so that in itself is an answer.

I hope someone makes an example out of them.

Even without that specific law, it should fall under fraud.

Let us not forget when Google tried to patent an algorithm for Assymetric Numeral Systems developed by an academic scientist with intent of making it available in a public domain. Seems like this kind of practice is more common with Google than one might think.

Here are some articles about that: https://www.inquisitr.com/4935898/google-accused-of-trying-t... https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/08/after-patent-office-re...

And a HN link: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14751977


Did you sign Google's visitor agreement? Did you read Google's visitor agreement. You give up some IP rights by signing that. This is a case where it matters. When I visited Google, I refused to sign. They just give you a badge that said you didn't sign.

Unless you've been visiting other offices from the one I've been visiting, the agreement pretty much says:

* No taking photographs or video without permission.

* Don't disclose things you see in the office outside the office

It's literally 3 sentences, and they have handy little icons next to each.

I see nothing about IP rights assignment or anything of the sort.


But different companies use different forms of visitor NDA — and lawyers purely love to load up contract forms with "protective" language to show how knowledgeable they are. This can be dangerous to counterparties; Stanford, in effect, lost part-ownership of a patent for HIV diagnostic testing because a Stanford investigator signed a visitor NDA that included IP-assignment language [0]. The case went all the way to the (U.S.) Supreme Court (about a tangential statutory issue).

The lesson: Always RTFA before signing it (where the A stands for the agreement), because sadly there's no such thing as an accepted, named standard.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_University_v._Roche_M...


Your comment is incredibly misleading. This wasn't the "you came by our office for lunch" NDA. This was the "you worked here for a while, and we trained you and taught you our techniques, which you later used in an invention" NDA.

> This wasn't the "you came by our office for lunch" NDA. This was the "you worked here for a while, and we trained you and taught you our techniques, which you later used in an invention" NDA.

Citation for the first assertion? Here's an excerpt from the Supreme Court's summary of the facts: One Dr. Mark Holodniy [0], who had recently joined a Stanford lab as a fellow, "signed a Visitor's Confidentiality Agreement (VCA). That agreement stated that Holodniy "will assign and do[es] hereby assign" to Cetus [predecessor to Roche] his "right, title and interest in each of the ideas, inventions and improvements" made "as a consequence of [his] access" to Cetus." [1] The trial court's opinion [2] states that Holodniy signed the VCA "[a]t the time he began working at Cetus"; it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if he did so without first getting the VCA reviewed by the Stanford legal department, because after all it's just an NDA, right?

Yes, the Stanford fellow worked at Cetus for nine months learning various techniques — which were published — and, months later, used (at least some of) the techniques when working with his Stanford colleagues.

The point is that a relatively-junior Stanford employee — as a result of having signed another organization's "Visitor Confidentiality Agreement" — in effect gave the other organization a get-out-of-jail-free card: The other organization was allowed to infringe Stanford's patent on a later invention by other Stanford investigators because the junior employee's own contribution to that invention qualified as a "consequence" of the employee's previous training at the other organization.

> Your comment is incredibly misleading.

You're entitled to your opinion, of course. The lesson is still valid: RTFA before you sign it — because otherwise you might be giving away valuable rights months or years down the road.

[0] https://profiles.stanford.edu/mark-holodniy

[1] https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=145195436028699....

[2] https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=776650368736548...


Citation for the first assertion?

You're making it sound like he just popped in one day and had a sandwich and a chat with the people working there. Your own citation, though, is to "the time he began working at Cetus". The "visitor" NDA there is more like "visit" in the sense of "visiting professor" -- someone who will be there for an extended time, working alongside the other people there.

And your original link to Wikipedia's summary says:

The Stanford lab in which Holodniy worked had been working on developing better HIV tests, and wanted to try the new PCR method, so Holodniy's supervisor had arranged for him to work at Cetus to learn the technique ... [a]fter completing his training at Cetus, Holodniy then returned to Stanford where he and other Stanford employees tested the HIV measurement technique.

If you work somewhere for a while and they give you training in the stuff they do, they're going to want you to keep that confidential and probably want to make claims on anything you develop as a result of what they taught you. You are heavily misrepresenting the word "visitor" to make it sound like he was only there for an office tour or something.


We're talking past each other here:

- You're arguing that it was meet and right for Cetus to claim ownership of anything that the Stanford fellow did, presumably ad infinitum, as long as it was a "consequence" of the training that Cetus provided to the Stanford fellow. While I think that's a pretty aggressive position, I really don't care, because it's a business decision for each party to make.

- In contrast, I am suggesting that the Stanford fellow probably didn't realize the consequences of his signing a so-called confidentiality agreement, and that the lesson is to RTFA, not to assume that the agreement is limited by what its title says.


You're arguing that it was meet and right for Cetus to claim ownership

No, I'm claiming that it should not have been surprising that the agreement for someone who worked there included such claims. How I personally feel about it is irrelevant; it's a standard practice, and to be expected.

What I am arguing with is your repeated use of terms like "visitor", to make it sound like the guy just popped in for lunch one day and they claimed all his work. He worked there. They trained and taught him. While there are contexts in which "visitor" can be the appropriate term for that (again, see "visiting professor"), the usual connotation of "visitor" is incredibly misleading here, and I wish you'd be more clear about it.


> What I am arguing with is your repeated use of terms like "visitor", to make it sound like the guy just popped in for lunch one day and they claimed all his work. ... the usual connotation of "visitor" is incredibly misleading here, and I wish you'd be more clear about it.

"Visitor's Confidentiality Agreement" was the title of the NDA, for Pete's sake; that's what makes it sound as though the guy popped in for a meeting.

And the trial court's opinion says that the Stanford fellow "commut[ed] daily" to Cetus. This seems to suggest strongly that the fellow divided his time between Stanford and Cetus — in effect, that the guy was a daily visitor to Cetus, as opposed to being seconded to Cetus.

Again, the point: RTFA — because hindsight opinions might differ about what you should or shouldn't have expected.


So he worked there, and commuted to work there, because of how he worked there.

And you brought this up in a thread about something not even close to the same situation, yet presented it as relevant. And doubled down despite being contradicted by your own sources. He worked there. He knew he worked there. He was not just popping in for half an hour that one time to have lunch with them. He worked there and they trained him on their techniques while he worked there. The fact that the word "visitor" was in there is not relevant and does not make it be the same situation that this thread was about. It is not the same situation. It is not a similar situation. It is not the same situation because -- have I mentioned this? -- he worked there.


I turn over my king, sir ....

Same experience here, perhaps there's a different agreement for social visits and commercial meetings.

> Did you read Google's visitor agreement. You give up some IP rights by signing that.

Curious if you remember the wording/page number on the visitor agreement? It'll help people to be on the lookout when they visit Google.


On that terminal thing near the big cafeteria? they just clicked something that was obviously android and handed me one.

I guess they agreed on my behalf?


No, it just confirms who the person is. No agreement is presented on that device (I am a Googler who has guests now and then).

> Did you read Google's visitor agreement. You give up some IP rights by signing that.

I guess the "don't be evil" thing is already well down the toilet.

What's that all about? A new form of tribute when you're called upon to kiss Google's ring?


You skipped over the interesting bit: "they just give you a badge that said you didn't sign".

I'm pretty sure all companies do similar.

> I'm pretty sure all companies do similar.

1) that's false

2) that doesn't make it less evil, let alone acceptable


No, Google would be among a handful of companies to do so. Very few companies in the US have meaningful access control to the workplace, and a tiny portion of them request visitors sign an agreement like the one described at the beginning of this thread. It seems like a power play by Google, akin to how Amazon requests drivers licenses when visiting.

It might be common in SV but definitely not all.

Its another example of why these types of patents shouldn't even be allowed. There are always a large number of people who don't get credit and/or won't get paid. And then all of the people who have very similar ideas or maybe the same one who get blocked from bringing products to market.

If the patent system somehow made it so people like the author of this post would actually make lots of money, that would be different. But it doesn't work that way.

There was an application that I worked on. I figured out all of the hard technical problems as the lead developer. Then when the guy got funding he kicked me off of the project, hired his friends, and filed a patent. He was "nice enough" to put my name on it but not as an assignee. Meaning I could never own any of the hard work I did.

This is the type of thing that reminds me that the idea that we really even have a civilization is a myth. Everything is just a game where the people who start with the biggest advantages and stoop low enough for the best scams come out on top.


It's a jungle out there, one of the hard realizations of getting older. Can try not to play along, but then you'll just be more screwed. :/

Patent law includes a provision for situations like this - it’s called “derivation,” meaning basically that someone stole another person’s work and tried to patent it. The rightful inventor can initiate a proceeding at the patent office to invalidate the patent and get control of the work.

If you add enough bling to an existing idea, you can patent that, if the bling you add is an obvious and probably necessary path forward, you can still steel ideas from the public domain.

Sounds like you signed something assigning your rights to the company.

If it was a job, it’s usually work for hire and not owned by him but by the company he was working for.

He would only not have rights to the invention if he signed them over during or after the patent application process. If he was an inventor and not listed on the patent then that invalidates the patent.

It’s down to individuals rather than culture in these things. By purely statistics, an organisation of any size has less than ethical people in it even if they have the best outward impression. Unfortunately these sorts of people tend to favour power and slowly work their way to positions that give them that. Then the whole org is a bad apple.

Having been in a similar situation before, the correct answer is “I’ll get my lawyer to contact you with our NDA process” or if you’re really worried “fuck off”.

It’s probably better to file patent first though. The patent is what you need to sell them.


Repeated unethical behavior is not the fault of a few bad actors, but of an organization designed to encourage that behavior. I wouldn't discount Google as being at fault seeing as how we already have two instances of Google's ATAP committing patent fraud despite little research and outreach being done.

One fun fact I stumbled across is any misconduct when filing for a patent voids the entire patent application, not just the claims that the misconduct occurred in: https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2016.html


Assholes hire assholes. Eventually the assholes all float to the top and make asshole decisions. You can't win. This is a failure mode of every organisation I have ever seen.

My take on it is as long as there are instruments to abuse there will be unethical people to do so. Patent law and drug prohibition are equivalent, to me, in this way. They create unnatural economic sectors where unethical behavior is favored.

They give a legal framework for unethical people to prosper. They are "hacking" the system. Highly moral societies are especially ripe for this kind of victimization because many of the "laws" are social norms that everyone just follows.

Is there any evidence of this? I've seen assholes work for nice people as well.

Yes, failure to include an inventor of a single claim invalidates the patent family.

That's all well and good, but the process of invalidating the patent is long and expensive.

Designing am organization and keeping it running well are incredibly difficult. What you see as encouraging poor behavior could easily be poor management. I have never worked at Google so I do not know.

It can also result in attorney discipline.

Culture is created by individuals. But the fact that Google gives large bonuses to employees for giving their patent lawyers topics to pursue is a huge incentive for unethical behavior like described in these anecdotes.

As for the rest of your argument, there’s a big gap between the people who love to share ideas and tech and the people who want to monetize every drop of IP. I think it would take a pretty twisted or cynical mind to even think of patenting something like an electronics-integrated storybook. This is not a remotely new idea (story/picture books with embedded electronics have been around for decades), and there’s no fundamental innovation at the root of these patents. This is just the worst impulses of VC culture out of control.


The bonuses are actually not that large. The real motivation is to have patents to put into your promo packet to help you the next time you apply for promotion.

I had 2 patents issued when I was at Google. As best as I can recall, the bonus for first one was nice ($5K?), and then the second was much smaller ($1K). I'm not sure how far the reward decays (I do not recall if it reaches zero). I remember thinking at the time that the Google patent bonuses were much smaller than patent bonuses at other companies, as a friend at Red Hat was making a killing via patent bonuses.

However, I'm sure the patent lawyers made a lot


$5K is large for a US company IMHO, but I don't work in CA. It's still a tiny incentive and peanuts compared to how much the lawyer and the PTO get paid for your patent. You know why they pay you? Two reasons. One is as an incentive - people get all excited about little 1K bonuses. The other is that they are effectively "buying" your idea. That whole bit about the assignee? Yeah, no. In the US, the inventor is legally the "owner" of the patent (IANAL so wording...). They have to give you something in return for it. The monetary award and the associated documentation is to prove you made a fair exchange.

My understanding (again IANAL) is that even if you sign documents with your company agreeing that they own all your innovation while employed, you are still legally the assignee for your patents. If you run off and patent something while employed and don't sign over a patent they want, you will be in breach of whatever contract/document you signed, but until any conflict is resolved it's not their patent until you assign it to them.

Accepting the "patent bonus" is a way of having you confirm the transfer of your IP to them. It legally finalizes the deal you made when you hired in and signed that bullshit IP document. From their side it's a tiny price to pay for that.

I'm sure a real lawyer can iron out the details I didn't get right in the above.


Well, the first bonus was large. I think the idea was to give you an incentive to try it, and get you used to the system. After that, the benefits decreased. I think that after several patents, the bonus dwindled to (almost) nothing.

> It’s down to individuals rather than culture in these things. By purely statistics, an organisation of any size has less than ethical people in it even if they have the best outward impression.

How the organisations react to that bad apples is what matters. I have seen companies ruined by half a dozen people that bully others, play office politics and blame games. Most of the people were fantastic, but the CEO will do nothing about this bullies in high positions.

If a company has no way of dealing with these people, the company does not deserve to survive. So, yes there are bad apples. But, the companies have the tools to make them correct their behaviour or get rid of them.

> It’s probably better to file patent first though.

Yes. Completely agree. Companies should play nice, but you should protect yourself just in case.


I'm amazed at how relaxed their response is. If I told someone about some of my work and then found out they'd tried to patent it, I would be pissed!

Yeah, like wtf?

>they offered to add me as an inventor on the patent application if it meant the applications could stand. I said no


That offer alone should be enough to can the whole thing.

Probably wouldnt ring nice for MIT to go to war with google

Interestingly enough in the hierarchy of power in that context, MIT has more than Google.

MIT is free standing when it comes to their finances. They have a $16.4 billion endowment. So Google (etc) doesn't have economic leverage over them, such that MIT always needs money and can't afford to ever cross large organizations.

If you get three or four of the better schools together in the conflict, Google would beg forgiveness. They desperately need access to the best those schools have to offer, and they know it. That access and relationship is worth more than gold or pride to them. Money? They've got so much they have no idea what to do with it. Get cut out of critical relationships with elite schools and that can take enough of your edge away over time that you start losing in subsequent competitive rounds of don't be killed by tech inflection.


The fact that a $16.4B endowment exists doesn't mean that any of it is available to fight a pissing match with Google (whose market cap is still ~45-50x MIT's endowment) - in my experience at a similar institution, I was told "we have $X in endowments, but all of it is essentially already spent" - it had been earmarked for various projects 5+ years in advance.

If you want your secrets to remain secret, you shouldn’t divulge your secrets.

There were no secrets here. This was work, which was publicly published and promoted, which a third party then tried to not only plagiarize but also to lock others out of using.

I'm from a scientific background. Plaigarism is the most serious allegation you can level against someone. This is a whole 'nother level.


If you want to protect your secrets, you should patent them so when someone figures out your secret, or in this case your creative idea, you have a leg to stand on. Otherwise, they figure out your secret or idea and you have nothing. This is the entire purpose of patents and, despite many of the current issues with patents, they are still effective in many cases.

While you can argue patents are only paper, a valuable patent is worth defending. In this case, she was able to demonstrate prior art, meaning that a patent could not be granted since they have no idea to protect since it's been in the public domain (i.e. released to the world) and not an original/non-trivial idea. This is why academic publication, or in the past the use of laboratory journals, are useful in documenting time of the invention.


The patent system is just a mechanism that uses the threat of state violence to prop up the idea that an idea is property that can be owned. This concept is false, and the sooner people abandon that model the better off we will all be. The state can’t use the threat of violence to make pi equal to 3, to make a public domain codec a “google invention”, nor to deed title to the number two. Remember, parents are just an industrial incentive mechanism propped up by cops, nothing more.

You could say the same thing about any form of property.

No, only about Imaginary Property.

No, it is literally true that the threat of state violence is what props up the ability to own any property.

This is so obviously wrong I have no idea how to continue.

What stops other people from taking your tangible property other than the threat of state action?

Sure, there are plenty of people who would refrain from stealing anyway just because it’s morally wrong. But there are enough people who don’t care that the whole idea of property rights becomes meaningless in practice without some way of enforcing them.


> What stops other people from taking your tangible property other than the threat of state action?

Aside from morals, the threat of reciprocation, not by the state specifically but by the property owner who was harmed and anyone authorized to act on their behalf.

Unlike actual property, IP isn't based on reciprocation. The penalties for infringement go way beyond simply losing similar forms of IP.


The penalty for stealing my TV might well include a bullet in the chest. I’m not sure what your point is.

That would simply be murder, not a just or reasonable response to someone stealing your TV. In any case it still doesn't involve any state action, so we appear to be in violent agreement that, contrary to your original assertion, the state is not the only thing stopping other people from taking your property.

There is a big difference between open research that you don't want Google to lock away behind a patent and 'secrets'. Her ideas weren't secret, she just didn't want Google to own the patent to it.

Regina Dugan is a former head of DARPA as well as ATAP. She has an impressive resume. Why would she do something like this? For a not particularly important patent, LED popup books? It seems bizarre.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regina_E._Dugan


People don't get to the top by being ethical. They get to the top of the org chart by playing politics. Many of them are practically psychopaths.

The good news is that very few people are at the top. Most are in the middle, and it's entirely possible to be ethical and in a good middling position.

How can you justify your work in the middle as ethical, if it directly supports a rotten apple at the top? Your life's work turned into a support system for a beast, wonderful!

Are you making reference to this? https://goo.gl/images/2UmYrg

I suppose it depends how you view the system and the rotten apple.

A properly functioning complex system should be able to tolerate a few bad apples, limiting the harm that they can cause. If you work in such a system and there are bad apples, you can justify the ethics of your work if there are checks and balances that limit the leader's ability to harm.

The obvious analogy is the current U.S. political system. It's quite possible to see the United States as generally striving for a more fair society, and generally good, and yet to be disgusted by Trump's cruelty and inept. The only way to square those two competing ideas is to acknowledge that even though Trump is a miserable rotten apple, he doesn't really have all the power. As bad as he is, he won't last forever, and the principals of the U.S. will long survive him.


The psychopaths at the top are a lucky minority of a mass of psychopaths, most of which prosper a bit less at middle levels in organizations. Only low-functioning psychopaths are exposed and thrown out, and usually only by chance because of specific incidents.

No way. The psychopaths at the top of the top are a different breed, by an order of magnitude. It takes a different "type" of person to run for U.S. President than to run a large organization or company. Consider the president of GM, who worked her way up over 30 years from bottom to top and had to learn everything in between. Compare that to either Trump, who basically staged his election as reality TV episode that went wrong (he just wanted ratings, not to run the place). Also consider Obama, who was so smart, well spoken, and charismatic, probably only heard people telling him would be president from 18 onwards. Also Ted Cruz, who would happily accept a role of enforcement of the "US Moral Compass" as his pre-ordained right/duty.

My point is that there are plenty of folks at the top of their company that are not physcopaths, they inched their way up over decades of sweat and tears, and even if they aspired to lead on their way up, they knew they had to prove themselves in every aspect of the business first. CEOs of GM and Merck are decent examples. Then there are folks who believe they were chosen for the job before their birth. I'm scared of them.


Also, you don’t get to be the head of an organization whose primary goal is to figure out better and more efficient ways of mass murdering people whilst having any semblance of a moral compass, either.

It does increasingly feel this way, but I think (hope?) it's selection bias. In other words we hear about the psychopaths because they are newsworthy. We don't generally hear about the average CEO, because they are average and generally follow expected social norms.

At least, that's what I hope.


Sorry but I don't share that hope, it doesn't make logical sense. The higher you go in organizational pyramid, and the bigger the pyramid is (in width and amount of levels), the harder it gets to progress. Sure, you can impress here and there with your raw technical/managerial skills, but sooner or later that won't get you much further. That's where backstabbing, alliances, quid pro quo, slanders happen. It comes about how you look to those important, not actual results. Good hearted balanced individual could theoretically survive, but constant battle with those skilled in these games would wear them down over time.

Politics on the other hand works almost always, the person just needs to be apprehensive and adapt to whom they try to please. Its not limited to corporations, plain old state politics and bureaucracy is the same.

Btw minor nitpick - I would expect much more sociopaths than proper psychopaths in top of the pyramid.


Minor nitpick with your nitpick - the DSM used to make a distinction between Sociopathy and Psychopathy, but as of DSM 5, they are both described under the umbrella of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). The distinctions now are only cultural, and made outside the DSM - usually by researchers trying to explain ASPD traits in nature vs. nurture constructs. In that regard, one could say there's actually no distinction between the traits describing the two as defined in DSM 5.

Reminds me that anecdote, not sure who it was, he was wondering where are the Caesars or the Hitlers of our time, all that brand of ambitious, manipulative and dominant personalities. The answer, he found, was that nowadays those people are absorbed into corporate instead of going into politics.

Disclaimer: I am a Google employee, who isn't listed as inventor on any patents here. I don't speak for Google and all the usual blah blah.

In my experience outside of Google, typically how this works is that you will get a visit from product counsel asking if you have any patent-able work. It's not your job to ask if it's novel enough; that's the patent lawyers job.

So they bug you for months while you are trying to get work done asking about what you are working on and how it works, and then file something on your behalf. I can't recall if I even needed to sign anything before a provisional application was filed.

The way that this is pitched is that it's a necessary evil. One needs a huge patent portfolio to protect your tech inventions, because when you are sued, you can leverage your portfolio to protect yourself. I hate this system and how it works, but it is a business reality.

I don't know Regina, but I think Hanlon's razor applies. It less likely that she woke up one day and said, "well, I want to steal other people's inventions today!", than, "oh I have a bunch of work to do and need to get counsel off my back."

It doesn't make what happened here right, but I think it's unfair to assume malice.


No reason to take what is not yours, there is no room here to justify such even if the system is broken.

>"I have a bunch of work to do and need to get counsel off my back"

You would have had a hell of a lot more work to do if you'd actually come up with the ideas you patented yourself, instead of stealing somebody else's bunch of work they did.


“It’s a necessary evil”

Company motto: “Don’t be evil”

Do you notice the hypocrisy here?


"Don't JUST be evil. Be evil AND greedy."

My experience with patents extends beyond Google. I've never heard "It's a necessary evil" uttered anywhere here.

Aside from that, I'm not saying that there's not hypocrisy but I am saying that the real story is often more nuanced than first appearances.


>It doesn't make what happened here right, but I think it's unfair to assume malice.

I'll probably burn some Hacker News points here but the old adage needs to be updated. Never attribute to stupidity or malice what can be attributed to both stupidity and malice.


The same Wikipedia article that mentions a Wired article of potential conflict of interest when working for the US goverment and awarding a contract for a company she owned stock in. Totally sounds like a non-corrupt human.

> She has an impressive resume.

> Why would she do something like this?

Because the latter may be the reason for the former


As a result of many real world experiences I've started to see ridiculously impressive looking resumes as a contrarian indicator.

When I see a resume that cites multiple company foundings, dozens of patents, dozens of projects, etc. I know the person is either stealing or taking credit for others work or just padding their resume in the more conventional sense. It says this person is a liar, exaggerator, narcissist, or sociopath.

It's simply not physically possible for a human being to do the amount of stuff I see on some resumes/CVs. There are not enough hours in a day to actually invent (as in actually conceptualize, research, and prove) a hundred things in 20 years or found (as in actually shepherd to success) dozens of companies. Founding one successful company takes several years and a ridiculous amount of work. Founding two or three in a life time is possible but off the charts impressive and the number of people who can realistically claim this are few. Dozens? Physically impossible, but I've seen such things claimed... by people whom I later saw were total liars and sociopaths.

Edit: it's different if they accurately claim to have managed people who have done these things, like "managed a research organization with over 200 patents and 1000 publications" or "founded company X and also contributed as an advisor to companies Y and Z" etc. It's also important to note authorship positions in long lists of publications since some science teams add everyone who ever touched a project as an author. Being listed on a bunch of publications with 15 authors is not a contrarian indicator, but claiming to be a primary researcher on absurd numbers of things can be.


Well said! The old adage; "if something seems too good to be true; it probably is" is a truism. The outliers are very few. The Internet is used to amplify every small exaggeration and falsehood into banner headlines and for some reason even sane people default to believing them. Being sceptical takes effort while belief is wired into our DNA.

Probably because she’s been doing it to lots of people for her whole career. People don’t usually get caught the first time they shoplift.

They thought they could get away with it.

> She has an impressive resume.

Does she? Or does she just have an impressive patent portfolio cribbed from others' work?

Or, in fairness, did this not happen as told because there's another side to the story?


Someone needs to add this incident to her Wikipedia page.

Not saying it's not Wikipedia material, but perhaps a site nice and searchable site of misdeeds so we won't forget? Does something like this already exist?

On one hand I’ve long thought this would be a good thing to have after seeing how often people can prey on others repeatedly but on the other I’ve realized that some people can and do change. The fuzziness of our memories over time let’s us heal and gives others a second chance. I’ve also learned over the years that things that are designed to catch or punish bad actors will instead be used by the very people they’re meant to punish to go after their enemies. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Have had that idea when I was younger. I no longer support this idea, because I realize that nobody else wants that site to exist.

Agreed. If you’re an asshole let’s make sure some shit you do sticks to your name.

Since it is original research it will get thrown out in a minute.

Citing the inevitable tech-press coverage now that the blog-post has hit HN's front page should get around that nicely.

To be fair we can't be sure that she was personally involved or had knowledge of the patent application.

>> She has an impressive resume.

>> Why would she do something like $badthing?

Am I the only one wondering why anyone would think a person's resume should be any kind of predictor of good or bad behaviour?


You're not the only one wondering that.

In fact, one way to get an impressive resume is to railroad others and use people as stepping stones to your way to the top.


Thomas Edison had a great resume.

He also ‘railroad others and use people as stepping stones to your way to the top‘ so that’s not a counter argument.

I think the argument was that he did precisely that. Yet history paints him as a great inventor (he was, and filed a lot of patents), and most people likely think of him as a "good/nice guy" which he may or may not have been.

Yea, I realized that might be the case after posting. But, it’s an ambiguous statement in context.

Thomas Edison is notorious for doing this, so it isn’t that ambiguous.

Hi, hello, I'm a person who didn't know, so the clarification was valuable to me.

For others, just about every bio of Nikola Tesla describes how poorly he was treated by Edison. Interesting reading.

Electrocuting dogs, cats, horses, and even an elephant, says a lot more about you as a human being than the person you're trying to discredit by electrocuting dogs, cats, horses, and even an elephant.

https://knowledgenuts.com/2013/10/19/edison-publicly-torture...

https://www.wired.com/2008/01/dayintech-0104/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrocuting_an_Elephant

NSFL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlPYikt_qvo


I don't disagree with the larger point but:

"The war of the currents (sometimes called battle of the currents) was a series of events surrounding the introduction of competing electric power transmission systems in the late 1880s and early 1890s." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_currents

Electrocuting an Elephant seems to have occurred a decade after the war of currents January 17, 1903.


So he had even less justification for electrocuting the elephant than trying to discredit Tesla, and he was even older and should have known better. That makes him an even worse human being in my book. Don't fuck with elephants!


He’s not making a counter argument. He’s agreeing with you...

I assume that statement has less to do with good behavior and more to do with doing something that can bite you in the ass when you have so much to lose.

Julian Assange did culture shifting work with Wikileaks, but allegedly sexually assaulted 2 women.

Adrian Peterson is possibly the best running back to ever play in the NFL, but has recently admitted that he still beats his children.

Steve Jobs created products that advanced how we use technology in our every day lives by leaps and bounds, but by all accounts was cruel to his daughter.

People can achieve amazing, important things in their professional life, but it's no indication that they're good people.


But this is not a matter of personal vs professional life. What she did was on a professional capacity. Not really comparable to all the examples you gave.

Inside most companies there is pressure to get a few patents.

At promotion time, people will ask 'if you've been researching $thing for 3 months, why haven't you patented anything yet?'.


That's hilarious. 3 months is far too short of a time to actually invent anything meaningful and get far enough along with it to determine whether it would actually be worth patenting.

Leah Buechley is the PhD advisor, Regina Dugan is Google ATAP, Joi Ito is Media Lab but... who is the first person speaker of the text?

Am I missing something obvious or is it really omitted?

Edit: possibly (probably?) https://twitter.com/qijie


It's very interesting that she is launching the PandaPatents site using her story as the impetus to help people navigate patent law. I haven't had time to look at it, but it sounds like an interesting idea.

I hope this catches on - it looks like there's already a second good story on the HN frontpage, about patent issues with crowdfunding.

I'm always impressed at how big a difference it can make to go from "people know this is a problem" to "there's a central place to see what this problem looks like and how much damage it can cause".


You’re not missing something obvious, like a byline. But the article does contain a screenshot of an email she says she sent to Google, with her name in the From field: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5af0d38a5417fc945678f...

Very likely. I can't quite make out the name on her badge. But she's with chibitronics.com it seems.

Edit: Doh. It's Jie Qi :)


Maybe the page was edited since your comment, but it says "Author: Jie Qi" at the bottom of the page.

There's a video embedded at the bottom, "Electronic Popables by Jie Qi": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI-6wMlaVTc

The byline is at the end of the article and is indeed Jie Qi

The story in the article about Jill MacKay stealing their LED sticker idea then trying to sell them the patent for $5m is infuriating. Goes to show you can get scammed by some jeweler in Colorado just as fast and easily as by huge Corp like Google.

I suppose it's possible she had the idea, saw their kickstarter then submitted a patent to CYA. But then why back the kickstarter? Just feels fishy.


Probably the same reason some major companies (FTSE250/Fortune 500) do the same thing. It's called a "competitor product teardown" - the goal is to identify things your competitors are doing, whether they're patented, and whether you can do the same thing (or something similar) to improve your own product.

It's basically the BigCo Inc. version of "that's a great idea, I'm glad I thought of it". (and usually patented it too)


That makes me sick. What a disgusting parasite. And you don’t see anything condemning her actions. I wish that was the first result when you search her filthy name. Would hopefully impact her jewelry business.

Similar story and time as Google ANS patent: https://arstechnica.com/features/2018/06/inventor-says-googl...


It was sad to read the thread where Jarek Duda introduces himself to the WebM codec developers group and suggests using Asymmetric Numeral Systems for VP9 / AV1.

Then he notices patent applications about his algorithm and asks Google to help: "Maybe Google could help fighting with it?"

It seems that Google helped by patenting it themselves??? So sad.

https://groups.google.com/a/webmproject.org/forum/#!topic/co...


I'm surprised this isn't mentioned, but there are a couple of possibilities here: a) the Google folks listed did actually steal the patent, as described b) the Google folks were working on this already, saw someone in academia that was doing very relevant work, and called them in to see if they'd like to join the team. Not clear how interview went. Unrelated to the interview, the team filed a patent when significant progress was being made.

Correlation != causation, so unless there's evidence that the author had a super specific take on electronics in popup books where the probability of someone independently working on the exact same thing is very low, how can we jump to the conclusion that it must be explanation A?

Disclaimer: I work at at El Goog, but these views are obviously my own. It's entirely possible that explanation A is the truth in this case, but it seems like people are taking it as a foregone conclusion


Presumably because Google didn't communicate anything along the lines of "we were already working on this". Even then, there's so much prior art in open research that the patent was invalidated anyway.

So we are really to believe that Google would have offered to include them on the patent application if they would have developed it independently?

edit: there are many other stories were Google behaved unethically around patent applications.


Now interviewing at Google is not only an exercise in futility and alienation, you can also have your ideas stolen as part of it.

Good to know


Not in any supporting this, but likely what happened was:

a. some googlers met Leah for casual/interview talk

b. Leah describes her ideas in detail

c. Said Googlers steal her idea and patent it thinking 2 years is long time

d. Leah comes to know and Google is caught with hand in cookie jar

This is very Google should have practiced the do no evil. Instead they tried to salvage the situation.


Software patents need to be banned.

In the interim, employee incentives (ego, bonuses) to being listed as an "inventor" while BigCompany remains the "assignee" could be ameliorated with a "Software Patent Hall of Shame" (SPHS), which would list software engineers complicit in software patents.

This would disincentivize software engineers from stealing ideas, from allowing their work to be patented, or from signing agreements which would force them to do so, since doing so would undermine their prospects with future employers, who believe in free and open software and unencumbered computer science research.


Not just software patents. All patents. What makes software industry so special?

Software is also protected by copyright.

Copyright only protects against actual copying. It's quite a limited right in comparison to patents. A patent can prevent others from implementing/selling/making/importing/exploiting the same invention independently created.

Copyright pales in comparison to the protection afforded by a patent.


Is this even a software patent?

No, but it's Google's love of software patents that is spilling over into everything else, like popup books.

This isn’t a software patent.

And anyway, lots of methods get patented. If it’s new and nonobvious, why should the fact that it runs on a computer matter?


Reminds me of this cartoon:

https://dilbert.com/strip/2006-05-06


First place I worked for had something like that except it was a supposed new customer that took their technical sales documentation and gave them to a competitor to develop a competing system. They also sent two of the competitors engineers to training sessions.

[cartoon about interviewing an engineer to solve a product design problem]

Dang, it's incredible that google didn't fire the "inventors" listed on the patent. This is blatant stealing.

Why would they fire somebody for following company's policy?

It may actually be criminal.

I've been named an inventor on several patents. If I read the applications, I hardly recognize the 'art' we invented. Somehow the legalese gets derailed, or they asked somebody else (not me) to help describe it. Anyway, the patent and the idea (software organization) are hardly recognizable as related.

Note: I did not instigate the patent process. The company lawyers did. I extricated myself from the process early.


Patents must be abolished.

Recommended reading: https://www.amazon.com/Against-Intellectual-Monopoly-Michele...


And replaced with?

Industrial secrecy doesn't seem like a better system. Perhaps you'd like shorter term patents, or want to fix some other deficit?


In software it is well known that nobody reads patents who does the actual work in the field. Getting rid of them would not have a meaningful downside in the dissemination of information. Most people in the industry agree software patents are bad for the software industry and they should be abolished.

But, if that’s true for software, why isn’t it true for other fields? Simply put: what evidence is there patents are a benefit to society instead of a harm?


We don't have software patents (as such! [lol]) in Europe.

Software is different, in that source and decompilation exist, you can't really keep it secret.


EU has software patents. The same applications that are filed and issued in the US get filed and issued in the EU too.

Also, there is no such thing as a software patent.


But...drug companies...

>And replaced with?

Nothing. Industry secrets is a far better model than giving major corporations access to government power that they can use to crush smaller competition, sometimes for work that they stole from the smaller competition.

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