It seems the better solution might have been to tighten up the review process -- keep the money the same but accept fewer. If the individual contributor in question was really as good as reported, he would have been untouched.
And yet they are about to lose a senior engineer who is nearly invaluable to the company over $110k of previous bonuses. Funny, that.
I interpret that part of the question as the program as a whole seeing 2-3 patents per week, spread over the entire engineering team.
The employee in question produced 30 patents over two years -- still an astonishing rate, but evidently worthwhile because 'all of these inventions are used in our products'.
Valuable IP often has several implementations. When I go through the process of parenting something, usually 3 - 5 different ways to accomplish similar goals are patented. Building a patent moat if you will.
Further, not all patents need to be highly valuable. Volume almost matters as much as quality, because you’re less likely to be sued if you have the ability to counter sue with 2000 patents. Each patent infringement needs to be defended which costs thousands a piece.
When Samsung and Apple started going at it. It woke up most of the larger companies to that. BS or not, still value if they have an semblance of an idea
I'd argue that with tighter restriction, you'd need to increase the payoff, to compensate the increased workload.
There is no way to prove they did bad at their previous jobs.
If you have established a business and you bank on "innovation" your likelihood of anything from a net loss to catastrophic failure is actually quite high. In the long run, most companies fail anyway, whether they attempt to innovate or not.
Case in point, those companies that did survive in the S&P 500 since its inception don't strike me as particularly innovative:
Except food i think there has been lots of innovation in the particular industries.
Care to name innovative examples?
Do you honestly believe these companies failed because they innovated too much?
If I had such a clause in a contract, I would turn down the opportunity. Maybe I am missing something obvious here, but I don't see the point of this.
Even worse, this:
> any and all intellectual property
sounds to me like one couldn't do anything creative in their spare time. Even a picture painted would belong to their employer.
Taken at face value, it's much worse than that. All the family photos he has taken, that novel on the back of his mind he wanted to write, that poem he wrote for his wife's birthday, the all belong to the company now. If he made a personal sex tape for his and his wife's enjoyment, the company can request it and sell it online or upload it to PornHub at their sole discretion.
There is no way in hell I would ever sign such a clause, unless there is literally life and death on the line.
No kidding! I used to work at Google and we had an orientation session on the IP policy. I asked if it would apply to a novel and was told that it would (but that they would probably assign the copyright if I asked).
I have worked at two FANG companies, and in both cases I crossed off this clause from the contract and initialed the line before I signed it. I told them that I couldn't sign that line and what I did, and in both cases, they said they would "get back to me" with what legal said. In both cases it never came up again, and I started working having signed only the modified contract.
I think that's a fair comprise of who owns what, and I would suggest anyone else to do the same thing I did.
IT has searched his OneDrive, laptop, etc., and we can't find a single shred of code/documentation on these ideas
I'd say the company got what it deserves.
Trust runs both ways, and once you blow that trust with your employee, you can't regain it.
That may sound bizarrely unfair to you, but elsewhere (Germany) it's actually the law (but only for inventions/patents, not other IP).
The employee has to tell the employer about any patentable idea, even if not in the general field of his employment, and even if having occurred after hours.
The employer can then either claim the patent (but has to pay something), or he can release the invention (and the employee can patent it on his own).
You are talking about Arbeitnehmererfindungen and those only belong to the employer if they are created on company time or if they are related to the work (Diensterfindung) every other invention belongs to the inventor (freie Erfindung) see §18 arbnerfg (3) althought you have to submit the invention to your employer if it could be related to the work (1-2)
Yes, plenty of countries have bizarrely unfair laws.
(edit: it appears that the law in Germany is not as bad as initially presented by the parent comment).
The solution is to just make it explicit to your employer / manager what you’re doing, and save the emails / documents.
Just imagine the complete breakdown if a group of employees actually tried to go through with that: every wacky idea, from self-lacing shoes ("seem something similar in a movie") to bipedal gigawatt wind turbines that walk off to windier locations in a lull ("stomp, stomp, stomp! awesome!"). If they have to tell, some poor soul must be obliged to listen!
I did a little googling and it seems, that if you patent something that benefits your company, they can license it from you, and if they patent something you invent, then they have to pay you a revenue share. If they try and fuck you after a disclosure, then you get to keep the patent.
(Edit: couldn't find it in the law, and will not be in the University library soon to check the legal commentaries — but I still find that question interesting)
Friends have lost jobs at companies whose names you would recognize. eg M worked part-time as a sound tech in his own recording studio and his software job would mean they owned the rights to that work. M refused to sign the updated contract and ending up leaving the company over it.
I suspect it's not an insignificant factor in California being disproportionately represented when it comes to invention and innovation over the last half century or so.
That "100% your own resources" part is key, Microsoft provides a lot of free software. Employees working on their own projects have a "clean" setup that has never touched anything provided by Microsoft. Desktop/laptop, accessories, mobile phones, and so forth.
Heck Microsoft has on occasion promoted apps and tools made by its employees on their own time.
That other companies aren't like this confuses me.
There are rules against working on products that directly complete with existing Microsoft products, for obvious reasons, but aside from that, there aren't any real constraints.
(I've had plenty of friends at MS working on side projects that pulled in anywhere from hundreds to thousands a month, those projects tended to be written against MS technology stacks and made the MS Ecosystem better by their existence, why in the world wouldn't Microsoft want that to happen?)
As far as I know there are two differences.
a) Google claims ownership of things you produced off-hours with no company resources if the work you were doing off-hours is your job. If you are for example a DL theorist, you are being paid in part for your general skill at coming up with DL theories, not just for the hours you put in at the office. If you come up with a new DL theory in the shower instead of at your desk, Google still owns it.
b) Google claims ownership of innovations made by employees off-hours with no company resources if the innovations in question were already being researched elsewhere at Google or the innovation was already known to Google. Like any sufficiently large technology company, Google has made patentable discoveries that it has elected not to patent so as to maintain them as internal trade secrets. This is to avoid the mess that would ensue if an employee independently came up with one of these discoveries and filed a patent for it and Google had to dispute the patent by demonstrating prior art and in the process revealing their trade secret.
So if you have a new innovation that was produced off-hours and without company resources, you first submit it to Google's legal office and they will let you know whether they (a)
consider it part of your job or (b) were already aware of it, and if so they will claim ownership. If you disagree with their decision there's a third party arbitration process so that you can hash it out without risking the exposure of a trade secret.
Fortunately it seems that most things like this are relatively unenforceable, but IMHO it's still a good idea to keep anonymity/"firewall" what is done on company time from everything else. Don't publish non-work-time material under an identity that could be traced back to your real identity with the company, for example.
Fortunately most of the time if the employer is stupid enough to sue for non-work related IP many courts will toss the case and render the clause void in the agreement. However there have been a few bad rulings as well.
I remember on case where the employer sued an employee over a book they wrote after the book was successful, the employer happened to be having financial problems... If I remember correctly the judge ruled in favor of the employer
Every organization says it wants to be exceptional, except where it comes to employee rights and compensation. Then it's "sorry but this is just how everyone does it", e.g. "you can't get b tyer treatment elsewhere"
That said, most companies I've worked for here put that in your contract, but then are more than happy to give you written permission to release rights to (for example) open source projects, or things not related to the business. I worked very briefly for one company which literally tried to assert ownership of photographs we took in our spare time while we worked for them (I won't name them, as they're a little over-litigous). I did not work there for long.
The company I worked for owned all my hardware designs.
However, if it was not hardware it was mine. About three years after the company grew I had to sign a contract - the contract clear said they owned all my designs.
I crossed that out, wrote in a clause they only got hardware designs made in shop, signed and date it, THEN had the president (small company still) also sign and date the changes.
Even if legally challenged, I could prove in court I was acting honestly and the expections of the signed contract.
I've had that clause in initial version of the contract at every Canadian tech company I've worked at except my current employer - I had to negotiate having it removed, and succeeded except the one time I've mentioned
I believe the crucial case was Conley v. DSC Communications Corp
They got a bunch of custom ADND software for Windows CE. At some point, I got a phone call asking why I was sending them this stuff. It apparently irritated someone enough they released me from those terms.
Programming used to be my hobby and I was always creating webapps or whatnot. Whatever I learned during off-hours, it improved my productivity at work.
Since starting work at this new company, I have lost all the zeal for programming on the side. It feels unfair. Not that my little apps will ever make enough money to get noticed at work. However, there is always a little voice in my head which keep saying don't spend too much time on this project, you don't own it.
Looking to get out as soon as possible.
> even during weekends/free-time
It sounds illegal. In the US, you can really specify such clause in the contract?
Few employers will want to claim ownership of your mobile game/app or whatever, unless it's related to the company or what it does.
I personally prefer to keep my code private by other means. But no judgement, hehe :)
But, hey I'm no lawyer..
It sounds like you haven't worked in tech before? Apple is one company well known for a clause like this.
At some employers this would also include "present at the office at a time when you're not expected to do work."
In reality, it would be up to the judge, jury, arbitrator, or hearing officer to apply this phrase to the facts or circumstances of any dispute (possibly with deference to on-point precedential or persuasive case law).
For people working remotely, this is more difficult, there’s no clear definition. Eventually, I don’t see a problem there anyway, given we measure by output and prohibit engineers from reusing our stuff in their private projects.
We do not employ people we don’t trust so we never had issues so far.
I would generally define this as not during work hours. Work hours are flexible, but don't be stupid: just don't interleave work stuff and personal project stuff and use your own equipment and you'll be fine.
ie if you take breaks from work and instead of wasting time on HN or reading news you bang out code on your personal projects, I'm not going to be enthused about that. But if you generally work 10-6 or so, and by 610 you've shut our laptop and you're coding away on your personal laptop? Great, have fun. Please don't burn out.
And ditto re: trust. The way to solve not trusting your employees is to fire them and hire trustworthy ones.
This generally only applies in CA, and also to companies that are heavily invested in keeping the goodwill of their employees. Personally, I don't pick fights I can't win, and having valued eng leave is definitely not a win.
That works well enough for employees who work 8 uninterrupted hours per day 5 days per week as their work week. (Even for them, sometimes copyrightable personal projects are different enough to serve the same mentally restorative purpose during the workday that browsing the Internet can, like if it's poetry or designing a sweater.)
But not everyone performs best or happiest like that.
What about the employees that typically work 11-2, go for a gym break 2-4, work 4-6, go for dinner and time with their family, and then work 8pm-2am... but mix some personal side projects into the 8pm-2am part and think up advances on those personal projects while at the gym, plus do extra work for both personal and employer purposes on weekends?
Yes, these patterns are consistent with people I know in the industry. (I'm combining multiple people for anonymity.)
Notice those hours added up to well more than 8 work hours per day and more than 40 per week. If such people can't interleave personal and work stuff, they'll probably spend less time on work stuff overall and give less productivity to the company (if they don't switch to a more permissive employer).
And this is also for the protection of the employee. I'm a founder, and I can make pretty durable promises, but even my promises aren't 100% durable. If we get bought, or we don't perform and I get fired, my promises no longer matter. The employee doesn't want to be in a situation where he or she has built something valuable, I'm no longer in a position to keep my commitment, and the new owners want a piece.
I see that you're SRE/ops so your work is naturally more bursty, so that may color your perspective. For my company, I'm not sure how we would deal with that, except we don't really keep people on call outside of hours. We hired ops living in E Europe so they come on as we go to bed.
edit: given your suggestions of poetry or sweaters, sure, knock yourself out. I still won't be stoked about working a different business during my hours.
There are better ways to protect the employee, though: the legalese can omit time of day / day of week / place of work / equipment used as conditions of IP assignment. My current employer does this. (No it's not based in the US, but it is a startup funded by both US and home-country VCs).
Of course, the employer does own stuff created within the course of employment. Not a problem in any of the plausible future successful or failed exit scenarios.
Last thought: many good people in tech, very much able to do the jobs you ask of them, have ADHD, or kids, or athletic hobbies, or other reasons to do a bursty workday. Sometimes people seemingly outside these categories may turn out to be in them (e.g. new parents). Being incompatible with such workers makes it harder to hire and keep the talent tech companies need to succeed. (Sometimes it's illegal too, but that's a separate conversation.)
I feel the same for people who require very bursty working hours. Part of the job -- perhaps the most important part! -- is to collaborate with your team. If you want to spend 90m during the workday to go to the gym, make sure you're not holding your teammates back. We currently have two employees that do that and it works well for everyone. If you require 3 hour breaks mid afternoon, you're probably not going to work here.
And, everyone I've described manages to collaborate enough during the workday (and asynchronously at other times) despite often taking multiple hours per day for things like gym or family. I'm happy that I can hire such people, and I wish you luck in evolving your company to the point where you can similarly access the full pool of qualified candidates.
I think we've continued this conversation thread as much as we usefully can; thanks for an interesting exchange!
Do not piss off your programmers. They can sink your boat either because they are stressed out and can't perform or even just because they are pissed off. If your company policies involve pissing off your programmers, you are in a pile of trouble. The real answer to this guys question is: If you can't fix your policies so that your programmers are happy, then find another job. This one is done.
Instead of trying to fix the problem, he asks how to squeeze the engineer. Unbelievable.
If said engineer is reading this, reach out to me.
A smart engineer is not stupid. Who knew?
True -- but arrogance and hubris are not unknown among top notch engineers.
You will notice here for example, that cameras can be put in workplace bathrooms in many states.
All of your work accounts and work hardware belong to the company and it is your problem if you put personal information on them.
> An overwhelming majority of employers, 48 percent or so
- Can an employer search a personal laptop (BYOD)?
- What about a personal Dropbox account? Personal emails? What if they are only in the cloud, and not on the device?
- Do these answers change if there are logs showing these services were accessed with a company device during work hours?
- Could they look in his personal laptop bag if they suspected he had a USB drive with the information inside?
These are generally very locality-specific and dependent on the various employment agreements, codes of conduct, etc. that the employee signed, so in general it's not very informative to speculate on where those lines are drawn.
However, I do think these are useful questions that any employee should be able to answer for themselves about their own current employer, if only so that they're cognizant of their rights.
And yet loads of people employed by companies work on open source software, write blogs, work on their own stuff, etc and companies don't seem to get involved. So what's the situation here? Is it something like companies legally may be able to assert ownership over work down by employees of their own volition on their own time with their own equipment, but mostly choose not to bother with it?
Assume I have an "ordinary" contract in the USA. Would I need to worry about this if I wanted to write stuff on a blog, assuming it isn't directly related to work I do?
(I understand that if it really matters I should talk to a lawyer, and will not interpret any responses as legal advice, etc. I'm just curious if other professional employers worry about this or just quietly do their own thing)
In the US it is going to depend on the company, but I feel safe in saying "most" companies don't care about such things and largely limit their interest to the work you do directly for them.
For open source software and blogs, is it feasible to argue that they are a form of free speech thus cannot be owned (or in practice restricted accesses) by companies?
I think that this must be a quite common situation: someone works on a solution to a "supporting" problem (js table or whatever), feels that the approach taken might be worthy of being a clean, reusable library. Maybe the thought of publishing isn't even there yet, it would just be nice to have the the API cleaned up for reuse as an in-house library. But there's no corporate time for that. Next stop: clean room supplementation from memory for open sourcing. Feels innocuous, but has trouble written all over it, good luck with "free speech". And it's tragic, because the employer would most likely be the sole beneficiary of the cleaned up reimplementation.
With these clauses there is at least the opening of a lawsuit. Most are probably not in a position to fight these lawsuits whether or not they'd win in the long run.
From my limited experience, typical software patents are either ideas that might (if you're very optimistic) be useful in the future, or descriptions of an approach that everyone already kinda knows. The only purpose they serve is to create a legal weapon to use in patent lawsuits or counter lawsuits. None of the ones I've seen would improve performance or functionality of any product at the time they were written.
Writing 30 patents in two years that actually improved a product seems to me beyond hard. Invented by a single engineer rather than a team, doing it in their spare time, only adds to my degree of disbelief.
Has anyone seen examples of such productivity that you could share? Since all patents are public, an inventor's name would suffice.
I used to refuse to file patents. That attitude seems a bit petulant to me now after seeing the company receive some patent threats related to my area of work.
Just filing the dumb patent is cheaper than defending, esp for large organisations. I now file bullsh%t patents too :(
If management thinks these patents are worth less, a reasonable position, then they should file fewer of them. Indeed the cost of patent prosecution is significantly greater than the engineer's patent compensation. Raise the filing bar; that'll save some money. But if they lower patent compensation, they have to understand that it will also lower motivation.
the literal second a company begins curtailing engineer benefits they transition from a forward moving company to a fungibility-fest maintenance mode enterprise
I am trying to move on, but I can not solve data structures/algorithms on white boards with people staring over my shoulder. :|
Because of this i'm taking my time looking because my resume only gets better by the day with what I do currently.
@OP, upper management fucked up majorly and if I were you I’d be looking to leave as well. Everything you’ve said makes them seem like complete assholes who said “fuck the culture” and opted for profits over people.
What should you do? Tell the guy in person that he should leave, take the patented material with him and don’t look back.
The company has had to have made more than 110k off his parents, and this is such an infuriating question to be asking.
I encourage most junior devs to keep their projects to themselves in fact. Weaponization of patents ethically demands it.
From reading about said company's treatment of this engineer in particular, they are simply reaping what they've sown. Marginalize your engineers, or try to catch them out with legal maneuvering (which is what most employment contracts now are intended as) when you first hire them to hedge your bets at being able to claim something down the line, and this is what you get.
Edward Demmings says one of the keys to Quality is to maintain and foster An environment in which the craftsman's pride in his work can flourish.
Blanket claims to IP and marginalized patents are not that.
But there was already a presentation. A court favorable of the employer could easily regard that as an implicit promise to provide what was presented, off-hours or not.
It's always hard to know but the way this is being described sounds like the person asking the engineer for this information has little to no relationship with this person. That can't be helping. They cut the incentive program that gave him extra money and insist he move to move on his career, they clearly don't belive what he says and I'm sure he has picked up on that. None of this seems like the way you treat a valuable person at the company.
While the bonus was good, he contributed patents. How much did the company profit from those? Quite a bit more than you paid in bonus, I'll wager.
And now you've cut the bonus, but still expect (and seem to be trying to force) the employee to continue contributing in his spare time?
neural implants cant come too early.
>I've tried offering a one-off bonus for him to just anonymously leave a thumb drive with the data on my desk after hours, but he just claims he "doesn't know what I'm talking about".
the engineer is smart while the manager doesn't seem so if he really thought that the engineer would walk into that trap.
> and even an offer of $25,000.00 for the IP didn't work, which would have been according to the "old rules". I think he's worried that by agreeing to such a deal, he's opening himself up to legal liability (it would involve indirectly admitting he was being dicey/dishonest about "not knowing what I'm talking about")
Definitely a Fisher/Spassky level of managerial thinking. Only at this game the rooks aren't sacrificed, they are shafted.
I don't actually know what to think about this (and I'm a big fan of absurdity) but suspect there's some hidden moral to this story...
Some bean counter has determined that they can save money by not paying for something they used to pay for - and its working. They are paying less (which is all the bean counter cares about). They fact that they are getting less or costing the company is not his problem.
The OP has had no say over this policy at all, and is actually pretty powerless overall. He/she has no ability to give out titles, perks, bonuses, promotions or anything really. Still the position of the OP entails being a link between senior management and the actual engineers, so the OP is the only one in management who actually sees this engineer's work ethic, creativity and problem solving. The few times this engineer has been in contact with senior management the engineer has pushed back their requests for him to just give up whatever work's been done, which doesn't work because the engineer barely knows who the f they are. So the senior management now asks the OP to fix it, but grants almost no authority to do anything.
The senior management would like this situation to end in a situation where they don't have to roll back whatever policies they implemented, or treat people in special ways just to get what they already believe is rightfully theirs, and if this doesn't go well they want to blame someone lower for the mess.
Some states have employment laws against certain non-compete and [iirc] blanket IP assignment clauses. In those states, even if employees sign to those clauses, they are still void according to state law.
Now even if you didn’t use any company resources, most contracts provide at the very least the right for your company to use any IP you develop, even in your off time, even without any of their resources. Your contract in all likelihood would give them actual ownership of the IP.
You could choose not to tell them about this IP, and I believe you would be fine, as long as you never used or published it - even after termination of employment - because not being required to disclose the IP does not change ownership - it belongs to the company, even if the company does not know about it.
Source: going over job offers+contracts with a lawyer
Software is far too broad a field for an employer to claim ownership of all of your software code and inventions. and so not familiar with the totality of case law, but I think software copyright and IP claims over employee's free time activities have to be very specific.
Example for some states, such as CA: If your job is developing computer vision algorithms for self-driving cars... your employer can probably claim ownership over your out-of-work inventions for car computer vision stuff. But they probably could not claim ownership for computer vision algorithms you develop for detecting counterfeit money.
They definitely would not own a video game you develop or telescope control software you write, etc. unless there are specific contract clauses cover software in these domains.
You can hash out the extent of IP claims [and non-compete concerns] with your employer. I would encourage folks to protect your creative freedom and limit the scope of your employers IP claims to specific technical domains. In many states, the law is already on your side but it is easier if the employment IP domain is specific.
Mine have also said "relating to the company's business" which I imagine (IANAL) can make a lot of programming projects difficult, and I guess might make a lot of non-programming hobbies difficult if you work for a BigCo -- creative media, "things on the internet" etc etc. And not a line you want to even walk close to IMO with companies of that size.
The company I work for also has this. The company is a big entertainment conglomerate. I'm unclear what businesses the company is not in; but most of the things I do in my spare time include--songwriting, book publishing, blog writing--could classify as things the company also does.
My `exclusion` clause was over 1 page long and I spent quite a bit of money on a lawyer to put it together.
Where would you work if you had skills that led you to be working at Sony in the first place?
This irks me, it's not explained or alluded to why this is needed, surely this should be wanted?
There's a point in the application process where you need to affirm, under penalty of perjury, a bunch of legal stuff about the invention. I can see having second thoughts about (say) the prior art landscape, or having sincere doubts that the application teaches something patentable, and refusing to sign.
If the potential patents are actually valuable, the cheapest way for the company to realize them is to pay the engineer for his time. The company already sounds like a horrible place to work, and lawsuits against current or former employees are going to send an awesome message to the ranks. Engaging in a suit to force someone to patent an invention is going to get really interesting and expensive.
It's also possible that the engineer has been gaming the patent reward system, turning in inventions that are just reworked prior art, or that are not actually very valuable (too narrow or obscure to be interesting, or too broad and risky to use in legal action). 30 patents is a lot, relatively speaking -- perhaps the company realized that it was actually getting low-quality inventions and decided to adjust the compensation accordingly.
an asshole, who isn't an idiot, often uses the pretense of idiocy to obfuscate their actions...even worse - as a kind of trolling.
given that these behaviors are so often fused, I wonder if it even makes sense to try to tease out whether there is malicious intent.
At this stage, I'd propose the employee quit and then possibly deliver the work as a consultant for good dollars.
Seriously. That cannot be worked in my country. This line alone indicates that this employer is evil.
This is illegal and unenforceable in many places in the world including the whole EU and California (only stuff done using company resources or relating to company work). I'm surprised at the other comments here that seem to be totally ignorant of this.
What we know:
1) The company changed the compensation model for patents, and now have lost contribution from one of their most prolific users of that model.
2) The manager is concerned that the employee is going to leave. And then the IP will be effectively lost to the employer.
3) Based upon #2, they have engaged a significant hunt for information, looking through his data storage, his laptop, etc. At likely fairly significant expenditure of time/effort/personnel who should be engaged in other tasks.
That is, the company is paying real money for the opportunity cost associated with their screwing up their policy. They are paying time and materials, resources, consultants, etc. to try to find something that is not likely findable.
They are apparently ok with this use of capital.
They are apparently less ok with paying what their engineer considered a fair market compensation for their effort. At some point, possibly already, they will have spent more money on the search and recovery effort than they would have paid the engineer.
4) Somehow the manager is of the opinion that the employee does not want to "admit" that they are "lying".
What we don't know:
1) The value of the previously patented work. You can get a glimmer of the thought processes by noting that the manager focused on the volume and not the quality of the work, by counting. You can get a sense of disbelief in high quality from the comments here.
So we don't know if this senior engineer was putting out good product, figured out a way to game a broken system and no longer wishes to play.
I am going to assume the senior engineer put out a good product and patent set. Such that the company was willing to prosecute patent filings, and saw value in them. So much so, that when they broke their standing rate on compensation for voluntary work, they decided to spend real capital pursuing this voluntary work.
2) whether or not this engineer is really looking for a new job. Well, put another way, whether or not they were looking for a new job ... yet.
Likely they'll catch on from StackExchange, see their manager post, realize that they need to git while the gitting is good.
3) whether or not this manager has communicated this to senior management, whether or not this person has decision or negotiation authority to solve this. Chances are, they do within specific boundaries.
A few obvious thoughts:
1) the company policy change is idiotic. Their pursuit of IP across the systems suggests that they realize that they messed up something fierce.
2) By the managers own admission, they badly broke trust with the employee, not only by reducing potential compensation, but then further by rooting through the employee's systems.
Yes, they have a right to do this. They are likely not breaking any laws.
But they broke trust in (at least 2) major ways.
3) If the IP is potentially really valuable to the company, as in material to their bottom line as a whole, or in a competitive stance, chances are the employee is very well aware of this. And they know that the old compensation model, the one they were using, wouldn't be of sufficient value to themselves for the value it would bring the company.
Which means that this is still a negotiation, and no one has seemingly asked the basic question of "what would it take for you to recall and rediscover this work?"
Given the breach of trust, this negotiation tactic may not work. But given that the employee appears to be a fairly smart cookie, they will likely play this to maximize their benefit.
4) The manager seems unable or unwilling to come to terms with changes they need to make in order to get this guy the comp he wants. This is a solvable problem with the right management, and the right managerial attitude. If you can't promote him because your rules don't allow this, and you think he is a valuable team member, and a promotion would help shake up his memory ... hey, this is solvable. It is left as an exercise for the student, but hint, if the rules are problematic ...
It seems to me that their are a number of potential solutions to this, none of which require people to admit to lying, or allowing them to be accused of lying.
The company simply has to decide how important this IP is to them, to decide what changes they should make. At minimum, this manager sounds like they are not a keeper.
> IT has searched his OneDrive, laptop, etc., and we can't find a single shred of code/documentation on these ideas.
Ahahah. Is anyone surprised that a smart engineer knows what he is doing?
Could you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the guidelines, even when you feel somebody did something egregious?
Edit: it looks like you've broken the site guidelines quite a bit and we even had to warn you about this recently. Continuing in that vein is going to get you banned here, so please fix this.
It's evident that the company doesn't give a damn about innovation any longer. It starts with "hey we need great people with great ideas" then it degrades to "we need people". What do companies like this really expect? Einstein? Edison? Sometimes innovation comes in multiple steps. Look at the list of most prolific innovators, they thought about stuff that we would consider useless at least. Still, the patents are there. This company, specifically, doesn't seem to value all ideas. They should simply stop this bogus program.
Look at IBM, it's the company with the highest amount of patents in the US (AFAIK). Do they all count? Are they all comparable to the invention of the telephone? How many other inventions were needed before that? This engineer released a lot of patents, and it seems that now, yes after 30 ideas, he had a very valuable one - which means for the company maybe some million dollars.
Why so late??? That's how progress works.
I would expect someone with the title "senior engineer" to be getting in the ballpark of $300,000 total compensation. Otherwise, their version of "senior" means something different than what the market leaders call it. If this guy is getting $400,000 a year with the patent bonuses... it's probably money well spent. With the right patents, you can extort Samsung for a few billion here, Apple for a few billion there. $110,000 is pocket change. Just pay the guy that and make it unappealing to leave for Google and get an endless stream of patents that you can have in your back pocket for defense, at the very least.
Google is the 1% of payouts. Look on indeed, or any objective source for average senior engineer salaries and you're talking $150 or so in a city.
An idiot bean-counter probably complain about giving an assembly line worker a check for $100,000 despite the fact it not only saved $1,000,000 GM that year, but every year after year as long as the idea is used.
And the fact that they describe him as a senior engineer and directly describe the IP they’re after as valuable to the company.
The sad thing about these situations is that the inventor is not owning the patent, the company screwed the engineer, and this is now on his/her own trying to fight legal battles.
In my opinion, the best thing to do in such situations is to leave your job and make a startup. If this guy is able to fill 30 patents he has probably some good ideas.
Yes, and universally it resulted in a mass exodus of good talent, I have experienced it 2 times in my career, every time most of the good talent was gone at other employers with in a year
>He was gaming the system to get above market pay.
lol, I always love when people believe that using a program exactly as it was designed is a "loop hole" or "gaming the system"..
No he was not gaming the system
>If you think someone came up with 30 truly novel and useful software patents in 2 years you might not have read enough software patents.
I am opposed to all software patents, however that does not change anything. The fact is to the company and the current legal climate around patents I can assure you each of those patents are worth more than the $$$ they where paying out.
>Has he worked in software before? Clearly he's never been in a management/leadership position where he actually has to balance the concerns of the company with his own ego.
Clearly you one of the bad managers that believe they are putting company concerns above all else and ends up hurting company due to their short sighted policies.
I bet you would be the type of manager that would outsource an entire dept, pat yourself on the back for the cost savings, and then jump ship as the company plummets of the cliff you created
That's utter nonsense. Most patents are absolutely worthless. Even the odd patent that you might find, where you can litigate still requires a risky and costly litigation process.
It's more likely that the company paid too much money to generate too few valuable patents, which is why they scaled back the program. Now that they did find one that is somewhat valuable to them, they want it and they tasked this poor middle manager to get it. But they're also not willing to spend more than 25,000$ on it. So how can this patent be that valuable? It just isn't.
1. I assume that processes or advancements related to the patent actually do improve the business function or process, that alone probably makes the pay out worth it. I know a few companies that have process improvement programs where employees can earn more than the person in this story if they successfully submit an idea that does something to improve the companies process, reduce costs, etc. has nothing to do with patents
2. The value of software patents today is NOT to litigate against other companies, companies fill out their software and other IP today to protect themselves FROM litigation, if a company finds themselves on the wrong end of a litigation their own patent portfolio is ammo both offensively (counter-suite) and defensively
I don't think it is narcissistic but I do think the developer has to be careful in how she plays her cards.
Many people find it extremely insulting to be referred to with the wrong gender, there are famous cases discussed in HN which led to developers losing their position within projects.