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?
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
It is very simple, they only care about themselves. Everything else is irrelevant.
”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
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).
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.
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.
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.
Aesthetic value is still value. Most people would prefer not to eat Nutraloaf three meals a day.
The earth isn't a closed thermodynamic system ;)
Not saying private companies can't engage in heinous shenanigans either, they sure can.
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
And, sorry, but it's hard to escape the indicative aspect of liking the oportunity to be "an asshole without feeling bad about it"...
Also I didn't know Google had patents for syncing audio across phones. I wonder if any of the mobile apps (like AmpMe ) have to pay some license fees.
I once spent an evening researching the different apps that could sync audio across multiple devices . 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.)
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.
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.
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.
We revived it after seeing Google's April 2018 patent & are excited about finally getting it out to the public.
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).
1 - Erlich's term, not mine.
Ah, found the episode: Season 2 Episode 2, "Runaway Devaluation".
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/
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.
Also for repeatedly posting flamebait and ignoring our requests to stop.
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.
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.
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?
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.
So... How is this not literally a crime?
That case appears to be civil, not criminal?
Here are some articles about that:
And a HN link:
* 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.
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.
Citation for the first assertion? Here's an excerpt from the Supreme Court's summary of the facts: One Dr. Mark Holodniy , 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."  The trial court's opinion  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.
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.
- 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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
I guess they agreed on my behalf?
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?
1) that's false
2) that doesn't make it less evil, let alone acceptable
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
At least, that's what I hope.
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.
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.
Company motto: “Don’t be evil”
Do you notice the hypocrisy 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.
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.
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.
> Why would she do something like this?
Because the latter may be the reason for the former
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.
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?
>> 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?
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.
"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.
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.
At promotion time, people will ask 'if you've been researching $thing for 3 months, why haven't you patented anything yet?'.
>they offered to add me as an inventor on the patent application if it meant the applications could stand. I said no
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.
I'm from a scientific background. Plaigarism is the most serious allegation you can level against someone. This is a whole 'nother level.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
edit: there are many other stories were Google behaved unethically around patent applications.
Good to know
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.
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.
Copyright pales in comparison to the protection afforded by a 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?
Note: I did not instigate the patent process. The company lawyers did. I extricated myself from the process early.
Recommended reading: https://www.amazon.com/Against-Intellectual-Monopoly-Michele...
Industrial secrecy doesn't seem like a better system. Perhaps you'd like shorter term patents, or want to fix some other deficit?
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?
Software is different, in that source and decompilation exist, you can't really keep it secret.
Also, there is no such thing as a software patent.
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.
I've had patent attorneys show up on a Friday afternoon with a case of beer, to get the entire team to sit in a room and brainstorm patents. Anything goes - doesn't matter if they relate to the field you work in, since the broader company works in almost every field.
As an employee, you are specifically forbidden from googling patents, because you might become aware of prior art. As long as you aren't aware... the reasoning goes that it isn't strictly-speaking illegal.
I can't say I'm surprised that cultures like that result in the sort of thing you experienced.
Kudos for creating something engaging and interesting.
Mangle? "They" is perfectly fine to use in this situation, it's not mangling at all.
Did you learn English before 14th century? Because that's when it emerged.
2. Take the time to use a search engine to look up her name, which is referenced at least two times in screenshots of emails she provides.
3. Click-through to the blog post she links, also written by herself: https://patentpandas.org/stories/crowdfunding-backer-patente...
Simply don't assume? It's not hard.
1. Assume an ostensibly correct pronoun of your own choice (like you did)
2. If someone corrects you, optionally acknowledge the correction and apologize if applicable, then use the correct pronoun henceforth
3. Ignore the overly gender-obsessed people who tell you that you should have used ugly or cumbersome constructs such as "they" or, even worse, "s/he" and variants thereof.
4. Don't worry too much about it; everybody can make an honest mistake.
In the context of her story, gender is not relevant; she apparently didn't think so either, since the only way I could tell from the article was her hands shown in the last picture.
There's no reason for anyone to get worked up about it.
Anyway, "they" is probably the correct way.
With that perspective, this board game patent actually looks very good. It certainly isn't an idea that I've thought of before or seen.