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United States

1984, today. 139

Jason told me about this extraordinary story of a guy who took 15 years to solve a problem in his free time, only to find that his employer for 2 years (DSC now part of Alcatel) is suing him for the idea. While this story started a long time ago, it's still plodding on. Although I was sceptical, Time, Wired, and others back his story. What's his idea? A method to convert machine code back to a high level language. Would it help him to GPL it? That would make it available to DSC, but would allow him to come up with the best implementation before they do. Since the idea would be out of the bag, DSC couldn't do very much about it, right? Update: 02/11 12:45 by S : Evan pointed out to me that if he GPL'd the idea, he'd be in contempt of court and stuck in jail.
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1984, today.

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  • This is in no way an American only thing. I know that these sorts of contracts are used in Sweden too, and probably other countries as well. Of course, it might just be scare tactics, and it is probably illegal, but that wouldn't necessarily stop some company for suing someone for breach of contract, hoping that the courts would accept the contract.
    Personally I wouldn't sign a contract that said the company I worked for got any rights to things I did outside of work that are unrelated to what the company does.
  • 1. Leave the country permanently. Then publish & GPL the idea.
    or
    2. Disclose a bogus idea that doesn't work. Then wait until the dust settles and produce your real idea.

    No?
  • It would be interesting to see if what (if anything) Texas state law has to say on this matter. It should seem obvious that it's allowed else we wouldn't be reading about it, but I gotta wonder.

    I recall a case here in California about a man who left one employer for another in the same business in violation of a non-compete clause in the NDA he signed upon employment. Now, many people don't seem to know it (and many employers deny it), but non-compete contracts are illegal in California. There is a specific law disallowing them. So you would have thougt this guy was home free, right?

    Nope. The company he left sued him. They also got an injunction forbidding him from working in the field until the case was settled. They then threatened to sue any employer who hired him if they were in a similar business. He won in the end, of course. After all, the non-compete clause was illegal. But he went bankrupt fighting it. And you can imagine what his career prospects were like after a protracted legal battle with his previous employer.

    Just another way of ensuring that 'employee' translates to 'property'. I wonder if this guy has asked the ACLU to weigh in on this?

  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    it would be time to play with their web servers or any other computer they have on the net. maybe we should do that anyway
  • Posted by The Mongolian Barbecue:

    I find it hard to believe that what he is talking about will prove feasible or useful. Granted, dissasembling into , say, C is not a trivial task, but it is also not _that_ hard, and has probably been done before. But more to the point, even if he can do this, will such C code be useful to anyone? It will probably be gibberish with meaningless variable and function names. And if those symbols are in fact included in the original binary code, then what is so complicated about the process anyway?
  • Posted by grahamatwork:

    I quite agree. Fascist is a greatly overused insult. What this company have done is hardly comparable with mass murderers and concentration camps .
  • Posted by stodge:

    companies put a clause into contracts which state that anything you produce is the property of the company you work for. Whether that means stuff you produce outside of work, I dont know, but I remember reading it in my contract.
  • Since his employer is the one suing him, the burden of proof should be on them. That is the way the legal system is supposed to work in this country (aren't we still innocent until proven guilty? or is that just another load they feed us to get us to sit idly by while those with the money do as they please?). If the law has somehow changed, I want to know when, why, and who was responsible. Otherwise, unless they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he came up with his idea on company time, then they don't have a case. I seriously doubt they can prove that, so I agree with the other posters above who say that DSC is 100% wrong here, for the reason I just gave as well as the reasons they gave.

    Even if they do find some loophole in the law that allows them to win a case against him, it's still wrong. If I were him there's no way I'd give people like that my idea. I'd be thinking up some idea that I know won't work and give them that instead. Since he hasn't done anything with his idea, he can't show that it ever worked. They don't know what his idea is, so they will have to take whatever he gives them.

  • Let's turn that around. At times, past employers have called me at home (that is to say, on my time) needing ideas and input. By your argument, the moment I answered, the entire related project became MY PERSONAL PROPERTY!.

    Sorry, it doesn't work like that in anything vaguely related to a just system of laws and ethics.

    In this particular case, the idea was unrelated to his employment, and pre-existing.

    Let's take the argument to the next logical case. I work for company A where I create new ideas for them (undisputed). Now, for whatever reason, I terminate my employment volentarily and amicably. Now, I work for company B. For whatever reason, a thought randomly pops into my head and solves a problem I was assigned to at company A. A co-worker asks me what the AH-HA look was all about. I briefly sumarise. Now, who owns that idea, Me, Company A, or Company B?

    Under DSCs argument, Company B owns the whole thing. Company A might well argue that they own the whole thing. Personally, I would argue that I own the solution I came up with, Company A owns what I thought of while working for them, and Company B owns what I think of that is related to their projects.

    Consider for a moment, the utter legal chaos that would result for any solution but the one I gave above.

  • by sjames ( 1099 )

    Describe to the best of your ability an 8088 ML to tiny basic converter.:

    What do you mean Tiny BASIC isn't a high level language?

    The problem with court ordering this sort of disclosure is that there is absolutely no way to factually determine weather or not the disclosure was made in full, or at all.

  • The motion also included a request for a "death penalty sanction" if I don't disclose my "idea" to DSC.
    You have got to be kidding.
    --
  • Accordingly, any work that you have done in this area is work that belongs to the Company.

    OK, but what is the definition of "work". Does an idea in his head count as "work"?

  • People think that the government will be the one to create a 1984-type scenario, and look to the private sector for salvation. I think that if any such thing occurs (which would be..let's say..unfortunate ;) ) it's much more likely to be caused by companies jockeying for power, money and 'intellectual property' than by politicians hunting for votes. This article is, of course, a perfect example...

    Daniel
  • My question is: whose email address at DSC do we spam?

    I read that and I just get this sinking feeling reading about all the motions overturned, contempt of court, etc.

    Suck.

  • > OTOH, you don't have to sign the agreement. Just if you want to eat.

    Yep. Remember, this agreement is COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY. Any extra leverage they have over you is a lie spread by the Commies....

  • Option 1: If he's so smart, he can leave out a crucial component and play dumb about it.

    Option 2: Go to the IBM patent server, read any patent that is at all relevant to decompilation (IBM, Digital, Pure, ...) and so pollute the idea with other people's patented processes that there is nothing left for Alcatel to profit from.

    In any case, he won't profit from this idea, so I hope he's working on others. By opening his mouth, he screwed himself. Were it me, realizing that I'd never make a dime from it, I'd take a long vacation with my laptop and drop some code on some ftp servers ....
  • Contempt findings usually result from witnesses refusing to answer questions on the stand,
    counsel wasting time in court. Playing games in front of a jury to cause a mistrial. Pretty much
    whatever the judge sitting on the case doesn't like (your hair, your attire). In rare cases,
    the opposing counsel can make a motion to the judge to do this, but it is pretty much at the
    judge's discretion.

    The legal basis for contempt is similar to the right police have to hold people who get drunk
    in jail for 24 hours without charging them with a crime. Amazingly enough, this is not considered
    punishment under the law.

    The only other recourse you have if a judge throws this on you is to take it up with another judge.
    Otherwize 24 hours in a holding cell or until court is back in session which ever is first.

    Punishment for breaking laws in the US requires due process including the presentation of charges.
    In most juristictions, the judges cannot charge people so unless the district attorney's office
    thinks there is a case, nothing will happen and after 24 hours the person is released. Note that
    in most cases, things that you can do to draw a contempt finding are not actually illegal, so
    you really can't get charged with breaking any laws.

    So in the MSFT case, the judge cannot charge the witness with perjury or anything like that so he's
    just letting it go. It's up to the procecution to make the case that the evidence is wrong. In
    addition, if the justice dept thinks that there is evidence tampering or lying, they can prosecute
    the people involved, and if it affects the current case they can probably get a new trial contingent
    of the procecution for perjury. Double whammy.

    The moral is, it never pays to lie on the stand unless you are 110% sure you can get away with it!
  • When you get paid a salary (and not a wage), you should expect to agree to certain demands that may seem Orwellian but are actually quite reasonable (given the fact that you are paid a salary). For example, many companies forbid you to moonlight without your supervisor's approval. This allows the employer to screen out potential conflicts of interest (for example, a boss forcing underlings to become network marketing distributors).

    However, there are (or should be) certain common-sense limitations to the rights of employers, no matter what you "agree" to in your employment contract. If you write the Great American Novel in your spare time while you are employed by a corporation, then would you say that the corporation is entitled to royalties? What about if you draw up plans for a tool shed in your spare time? (Key words being, "in your spare time.") DSC may have the legal right to steal Brown's ideas, but DSC and the state of Texas roundly deserve to be laughed at if DSC has that right.
  • I work for a big company. I like it there. The only thing I don't like is the sweeping IP agreement I signed which basically means if I create anything remotely related to computers my employer owns it. Which is why I had to stop my work on the Internet for now.

    It is quite a drag but that guy should have known better. I know that I'm not working on anything till either I leave the company or expect them to take their cut.

    The bottom line is they can't control what you think-- but don't 'work' on it till after you leave the company. I got plenty of ideas but none of them are anywhere but my head.

    I think we all feel for the guy but the law is the law -- he's probably going to lose.
  • Is it possible to sign away all your rights? OK, I know that's not the case, but what rights can't you sign away?

    --
  • Ownership of any ideas created while working for that company

    So while you are sitting at home, are you 'working for the company'.
    While camping on the weekend, are you 'working for the company'?
    While fast asleep in your bed are you 'working for the company'?

    <CLUE> Have you heard of this amazing concept called nine-to-five? Basic human rights? </CLUE>

    Eeek, cyberpunk is here and I didn't notice.
    Looks like the CEO of Daewoo failed to meet his contractual obligations huh?

    Come the revolution ... we're going to need a bigger wall
  • A contract containing illegal clauses is not legally binding. If you sign a contract to steal something, that contract is in no way binding, and obviously cannot be enforced. Property laws do not cover thoughts. In fact, I very much think it is against the law to own ideas :) Thus, if thoughts *can't* be owned, the contract is not in any ways be binding.
  • I'm not volunteering to head such a project, but it seems to me that the idea is already out there. What's stopping us(linux enthusiasts) from implementing it ourselves. After all, we DO have 100% of the required technical information, and it's mostly a matter of pattern matching and symbol lookups...

    Of course, we should also be aware that such an innovation would give pause to the ISV's that are currently supporting linux(no one wants their IP usurped even if it is a *really* good hack) -- witness the UltraHLE problems/issues.

  • If this guy's decompiler idea is particularly good, it would be too tempting for his boss not to go after him.

    Word to the wise.
  • Usealy your employer own all the IP you create, in or out of work time is not relevant.

    If you want to create and have the IP for yourself have your employer explicitly agree to this.
  • Wouldn't it just serve them right if they went through a decade of litigation to get ahold of this idea and it turned out to be stupid?

    I'll never sign a contract again. Sheesh.

    Vince
  • Atlas Shrugged would be a much more appropriate reference. Here you have some lousy business that is unable to come up with its own good idea trying some silly tactics (with the government's backing, apparently) to enslave an individual's mind. How interesting. What's 1984 got to do with it? :P

    logan

  • He claims he started thinking about the idea 12 years before he started working at DSC.

    TWELVE YEARS!!!


    --
  • "So, you've been mentally formulating a way to convert old computer code into new languages, eh? As you've sold your soul to us, you're obliged to tell us what that idea is. Or we'll have to remove your brain and pickle it, until such a time as science can reverse-engineer the idea from the network of synaptic connections that have been created throughout your life's experience."

    *sound of trousers being filled*

    "OK then, it looks like I'll have to spill the beans.

    *gulp*

    "My idea is that in order to convert an old computer program to high level code, you have to load it into a program which analyses the code byte by byte, looking for patterns in the code that cross-reference to a 'dictionary', eg. of compiled functions and their higher level code equivalents. To get the code, just substitute the patterns for the functions, et voila! There's your totally portable, high level code."

    "Is that your idea?"

    "Yes".

    "You spent 15 years of your life coming out with an idea like *that*?"

    "I'm a slow thinker."

    "But it seems to me that your idea is flawed. How can it possibly work? If it were that easy, surely somebody would have created something which already does that?"

    "Hey, it's just an idea. I'm sure the technical details will sort themselves out once the implementation has begun. Ideas are merely processes, after all."

    "So you haven't got any ideas about how your idea would be technically implemented, so to speak?"

    "Weeelll, not yet. I haven't even gotten around to writing this idea on a piece of paper yet, have I? I guess I need to develop my ideas a bit further before I come up with a working implementation. I've heard that the Perl regex engine is pretty powerful, though..."

    "Oh great. Fantastic. Got any more bright ideas, sunshine?"

    "Well, I do have this idea about turning oranges into gold..."
  • There's been quite a bit of work on binary-to-binary translation as well as binary-to-high level language translation, including a few startup companies in the field (I know of a small German startup that's doing very fast instruction set simulators for DSP processors this way). These guys have working code. What does this lone genius have? An idea, he says. An idea and a dollar gets you a cup of coffee.

    If the idea really exists only in this guy's head, it's no idea at all ... you have to prove these things out with software and testing, as well as peer review.

    Just the same, I hope this guy wins ... though he should have just taken the $2 million if the story is true. The normal going rate to compensate engineers for inventions is far less.

  • hey, then he could sue _THEM_ for causing his idea to evaporate due to stress....thus potentially losing him millions of dollars.

    and then watch their lawyers scatter trying to prove that an idea isn't worth anything. :)
  • This poor fellow is experiencing the joys of intellectual property laws in Texas. I hate to say it, but he was screwed from the beginning. You need to pay attention to your contract and to the local laws. In Texas, employers have rights to intellectual property their employees produce, be it at work or home. However, this is not the case in California.

    Being an EE student in Texas, this is unappealing. If i create something at home, I dont want to go to court with my employer. This law clearly benefits the companies.

    But, I think this law sucks. This law will only serve to stymie the growth of high tech in Austin and Dallas.

    Somebody with legal experience please clarify this, as I am sure I've been imprecise in legal terms. ;)
  • Wonder whats going to happen when it does.

    I totally dont get it. If this story is so amazing
    where's the freakin update? Anyone think of going
    to conventional media to follow up on what
    happened? It woulda been all over CNN, and therefore posted to /. months ago... no?

    So hard to get administrivial ideas like this up
    to the top of slashdot staff... all the commentary
    below is ON TOPIC, not related to the management
    of the story on the site. My post will be lost
    in about 10-15 minutes among others...
  • I'm curious if anyone has successfully changed their contract and been hired into a company. Maybe we should come up with a contract that employers have to sign before we agree to be hired. Companies that agree to this will get the best and the brightest employees.
  • Discovery == the legal term: prosecution is required to reveal the documents and arguments they will make to the defense.

    This means they lose a big legal advantage on the final decision if he drags ass.

    It doesn't mean he can't discover anything new :)
  • I know this wouldn't be an issue in California. California law specifically excludes work done outside of the company from being attached by any contract. We have to look at what is reasonable. Your logic that anything signed is valid would lead to the ludicrous as in the "We've come for your liver" Monty Python sketch. Contracts cannot break the law or violate basic human rights and dignity.

    tom
  • Bzzt. DSC isn't right. If it were, someone could hide things in the small print that say you are the person's personal slave. This isn't rational. It violates us all deeply.

    tom
  • sorry.
    don't buy it.

    let's say that i work for a potato-chip manufacturer, and while in the grocery store one day, i devise a much more efficient, elegant way of stacking raw potato bags (*not* potato-CHIP bags) in an in-store display.

    i mention to my coworker that i have devised this amazingly elegant potato-bag-stacking methodology, and i begin to devise ways of making a business out of said method, including but not limited to patenting the process by which i do said stacking...

    so, if i'm reading your defense of dsc correctly, you believe that my potato-chip-employer can lay claim to my potato-bag-stacking prowess, simply because potatos were involved, and i *just happened* to work for a company that dealt in potatos???

    don't buy it..
    not even a bit.

    what i *DO* buy is that if i sign a clause of this nature that makes their property all products, algorithms, & concepts WHILE ON THEIR CLOCK working toward THEIR GOALS, i'm legally bound.

    clearly, in the scenario i gave, i was not working on their clock nor toward their goals in devising my method, however i did mention the concept while on their clock... i believe this case is quite analogous to the dilemma he's in.

    i have been told on numerous occations that such contracts are *rarely* enforcable in court.

    guess we'll see...

    Peter
  • wow.
    you sure you're not a lawyer?

    that's exactly the reply i'd expect from a bad (or good, depending upon the vantage point) one... :(

    was anyone ACTUALLY confused about this facet of my example? wasn't this an obvious implication?

    somehow, i figure most reasonable readers wouldn't have wasted the time to point this out...

    me
  • Did you sign a contract when you were hired? If so, you should go back and read it...you may be shocked. After reading this, I just went over to my filing cabinet and dug out my original contract for my present employer. Guess what, not only did I give them all rights to anything I develop now, but they also have rights to anything I develop within two years after leaving their employ.

    Here's where it gets funny. I also still have the contract from my last employer, and they have rights to anything developed while I worked for them or developed one year after I left the company. Now, I've only worked here 9 months. Does this all mean that if I came up with a cool idea tomorrow, these two big companies would be forced to battle over the legal ownership of an idea that only exists in my head? That's nuts (but it'd be kinda funny to see).
  • "Death penalty sanction" is legal jargon for a permanent decision that injures the party sanctioned. e.g. A contractor cheats on the federal government, they receive a death penalty sanction for no more govt contracts, ever.

    In this case it probably means, "no more high-tech employment for the programmer".
  • Again, the "death penalty sanction" is only legal jargon for the judge banning Evans from ever selling his idea to a competitor. It has nothing to do with the criminal death penalty, which even in Texas you must commmit a felony to deserve!
  • Has he not thought about just saying,

    "With all the stress of this legal thing, I have forgotten the procedure. Oh darn, now I can't tell anybody about it."

    Nobody can prove or disprove this. After a year or so, he suddenly remembers and makes bucks out of it.

    :-)


  • The interesting thing in this case is that the person has never written down the idea in full. He says he has a solution, and maybe it will work, but I think you will find that the courts will not compel anyone to disclose an idea that is still in their head.

    Of course, once its written down then its intellectual property and that is a different matter.

    The stupidity of Alcatel DSC and similar firms is that no one with any brains is going to work there. They sound like complete shitheels.
  • by cmoss ( 14324 )
    Doesn't this remind you of a dilbert cartoon where they were supposed to sign over their rights to their DNA and all derivative works.

    I think in most states the non-compete clauses and
    they ownership of projects tend to non-enforcable in court. I hope this case turns out that way, AND SOON!

    I don't see how they can claim ownership to an idea that was developed 80% before he became employed. Maybe he could turn over just the 20% (hopefully useless) that was developed while with DSC?

    I think this case would have been thrown out long ago except if the idea was less lucrative. With so much money involved (potentially) the courts want to back the company that could affard to sue them later. If they would go ahead and get the case over with maybe the government could be using the approach to solve y2k issues?

    Good Luck,

    Chuck
  • I have. Both as an employee and a consultant.

    When I am asked to sign a contract as an independent consultant the companies usually have a stock contract the give you to sign. I read through all the legalese(sp?) and explain any problems I have with the contract. Usually it involves non-compete clauses or IP. If you ask them to rewrite those sections to address your concerns you can usually get them to just strike those clauses.

    Chuck
  • You're exactly right. I read the employment agreement that he signed. It seems pretty clear to me that DSC owns the "idea" that he invented. It also seems to me that they made a pretty generous offer to him.



    I think that greed, to some degree, is present in us all, and this guy certainly exhibits it. He gambled that DSC would be willing to pony up more money and he lost. To draw the analogy to a close, when you gamble and lose, your money's gone. You don't whine to the casino that they should have let you win.



    Probably the "right" thing would be for DSC to drop the issue and let him develop his "idea" independently, but I think that it's pretty clear that the law is going to come out on their side. Maybe with their acquisition by Alcatel things will change, but the net result is that it's probably a good thing to read what's in that employment agreement before you sign it.



    Perhaps Evan should be the postor boy for the caveat emptor society.



    hardcase

  • It's a classic case of possession being 9/10 of the law.
  • As a sidenote, can someone please explain what it takes for a contempt of court conviction? Is fabricating fake evidence in a video good enough (you know who I'm talking about)?
  • This is contrary to American policy! An individual is entitled to his ideas. He can do whatever the hell he wants with them, not be dictating by a stupid corporation. If Bill Gates wishes to make a billion dollars off his idea, so be it. If Linus Torvalds wishes to make his software free for all to use and modify, so be it. BUT don't tell either one they must submit their own creation to your governing!
  • "Up sh*t creek without a paddle" ring any bells here?

    This guy made his fisrt (and critical) mistake when he divulged his thoughts to his employer. Even though the solution was not there yet, the "idea" of the whole concept was. Granted, the solution probably is a key part, but I'm sure DSC could figure that out on themselves if they get the rest of the details, which they should in this case.

    I agree with the statement above that the guy was probably trying to "double-dip"; keeping his current salary and earning a double income from the profits of his idea on the side. Greed .... isn't it beautiful?

    I also agree that he should have quit DSC, and then magically conceived the solution, without breathing a word about the idea to anyone at DSC.

    However, from what I can see about the history of this, the individual with the idea seems to incredibly stubborn (I can't blame him, I'd be stubborn too if I made a big mistake with a 15 year-old idea like he did.) I would say that any chance of this idea actually coming to life from this is next to zero.

    Someone should come up with another method to do this, and then release the source under the GNU GPL.

  • What follows is an excerpt from Brown's contract:

    "I will communicate to an officer of the Company promptly and fully all inventions (including but not limited to all matters subject to patent, i.e., processes, machines, computer programs, etc.) made or conceived by me (whether made solely by me or jointly with others) from the time of entering the Company's employ until I leave, (1) which are along the lines of the business, work or investigations of the Company or of companies which it owns or controls at the time of such inventions, or (2) which result from or are suggested by any work which I may do for or on behalf of the Company." as quoted in Brown v. DSC Communications Corporation, Inc., Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, January 6th, 1998.

    The thing to remember in this kind of case is that the "basic" right that the courts are going to uphold is not any sort of right regarding what's in Evan Brown's head. What they are going to judge to be more important is the power of Brown and DSC to enter into a binding contract. Contracts give individuals and corporations of individuals the power to make "little laws" which the courts will then treat as binding. Unless there is a specific piece of legislation in Texas forbidding contracts of this nature, or there is some sort of rule of law already invalidating this (there seems to be neither), the contract is valid. It also seems to apply under clause (1).

    You have the power, under contract law, to promise your ideas to someone else before you even complete them, and to make that promise legally enforceable in court. Evan Brown did it, maybe without even paying close attention to what he was doing. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of case law or legislative legal background which is going to give him a way out. We can say that a company shouldn't be able to have any say over one's ideas -- I'm inclined to agree. However, we still have the power and freedom to make them, and unless we pass laws taking away that freedom (which in turn could conceivably be struck down by courts), contracts like these are going to continue to hold up in court. The law doesn't do much, if anything, to protect someone for failing to read his contract carefully.

    If you're involved in any sort of software engineering or development and working for a company which does any of that sort of thing at all, you should probably check your contracts over. Brown's contract didn't distinguish between what he did on company time and what he did on private time, so the contract reads on its face as implying "everything," and I expect that's how it will continue to be interpreted. I think that the way the courts will look at this is that Brown's ability to commit himself in this way is one of his personal freedoms or powers.

  • It depends upon the state. States and the federal government are free to regulate this sort of things to a certain degree. This is why we have things like the minimum wage, OSHA safety regulations, et cetera. In this case what is needed is a state law, because the federal government can only pass commercial laws that it can justify by its constitutional power over interstate commerce (which really has a very broad interpretation in the case law). The states' powers, if I am correctly informed, are a fair deal more broad. That's why they can get away with this in Texas but not in California, if we're right.

    The point is that in the lease contract examples above, the contract is void if the contract specifies something which is a violation of law. Because Texas has no law forbidding this kind of contract, the contract is legal and binding in Texas. At least, so it seems thus far.

  • 1) Suppose Mr. Brown wants to find out if his employer has any interest in joining him in a venture based on an idea he had in his spare time.
    He can either: a) send an official letter to the company while not at work or b) bring up the idea to his supervisor/whatever while at work.

    Since you're stating that (b) constitutes doing work on his idea while on company time, you might do a bit of work backing up your assertion.

    The late Italian artist Piero Manzoni canned his
    own feces back in 1961 as "art objects". The latest sale was $28,000 for one tin in July 1998.
    (source: News of the Weird) So tell me...since
    canned feces are apparently so valuable, if marketed with the right spin, do they count as inventions? And does your employer own any that you "work on" while on the clock? Can they sue you if you flush without first giving them a chance to cash in?
  • DSC (or whatever the company name is) are a
    bunch of Fascists. The fact that this is even
    viewed as legit is laughable.

  • If I'm not mistaken, didn't they fire him? Wouldn't their happy intellectual property clause in his contract terminate with the contract? If they manage to get this out of him, it will just further my distaste for the "wonderful" place we call America.

    Zeitgeist
  • If they still want you to disclose your idea for $45/hr, why don't you just sit in a cube over there, roll your eyes back and sleep.

    or spout out prophesy (gibberish)...
    or play Quake...
    or run around screaming like a wild bonobo.

    or give them the answer in 0's and 1's
    (it does reverse engineer machine code, eh?)
  • Folks, read your employment contracts, and if legal jargon puts you off hire a competent attorney to interpret it for you. Remember you have every right to cross out a part of the contract you don't like, even write in a new part, initial it, and make it binding. I do this all the time, and the counter-party usually has absolutely no problems with it. I always insist upon total ownership of all work performed outside of "work for hire".

    Most managers couldn't give a rat's ass about what their company lawyers wrote in for intellectual property coverage, and if you talk to them about it, you will find they will accept the common sense idea that you own the work you produce on your own time with your own resources. Keep a journal of your work like scientists keep a notebook, and if you keep a timesheet and incorporate, you get to call yourself a business and can find some favorable tax treatment; I'm oversimplifying for brevity, so educate yourself on the specifics. Finally, remember to always keep your own copy of originally signed contracts, find out what the longest statute of limitations that apply in your locality are, and archive the dead-tree stuff for at least that period.

    The new economy brought us (or at least those of us who contract) many new benefits and opportunities, but it also brings with it new responsibilities. The last time I checked, overly broad intellectual property clauses are usually struck down, but expensive to take to court and bring down. If Brown attempts to fight this, precedent is with him in general (though I'm not claiming it is in this specific instance --- don't know enough about the particulars), but it will likely cost him dearly.

    If there is an AM talk radio station in your area, call them and ask if a program called Bruce Williams is broadcast by them. The guy runs a call-in show where most people ask him about business matters. When folks call him about contracts, he demystifies them, and is pretty straightforward about how you negotiate one. It wouldn't hurt to also pick up some of the legal self-help books by Nolo Press to familiarize yourself with what business people do. The attorneys' bars in most states despise folks like Nolo Press, and that tells me to run, don't walk to Nolo for the information they sell.

  • So, what the story is here is that someone has a potentially cool idea, which has no actual implementation or other proof-of-concept.

    If DSC was stupid enough to offer US $2,000,000 sight unseen for ANYTHING, and was willing to go to court over this, they are so stupid this problem will correct itself.

    Hopefully I'll be able to get a job with them before they go out of business. I sure hope that $2,000,000 check will be good. :)

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