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Designing a Patent-Incentive Program?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the to-the-degree-that-patents-are-good dept.

Patents 221

SoulMaster writes "The company I work for (we are a one-year-old start-up) has recently started filing patents to protect some of its intellectual property. At the onset of the patent process, one of the executives drafted a very basic Patent Incentive Program (PIP) which is now under full review to ensure that it is both accurate and fair. The basics of our original PIP are that inventors receive (or co-inventors share): $500 for each provisional filing, $1500 for an actual patent filing (with full claim-sets defined), and $5000 for any patent that is granted by the USPTO. While the current program seems fair to our staff, we have been unable to find anything to compare it to. Moreover, the revamp of the program is likely to grant an equity stake in the company (via an Options grant) rather than cash payouts. I've scoured Google for information, but because internally documented PIPs aren't generally public knowledge, the results are limited. Thus, I have decided to ask Slashdot users: How does the company you work for handle Patent incentives? Do they have them at all? Are they cash or equity based?"

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I have a very effective program at my company... (5, Funny)

wronskyMan (676763) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179907)

but I patented the idea so it looks like you're out of luck!

Re:I have a very effective program at my company.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25179985)

Oh yeah? I got a patent for dehydrated ice. Gotta sneak the margaritas aboard the cruise ship somehow.

Mod parent up (1)

willyhill (965620) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180051)

This captures the essence of what I would have said to the submitter. Patents are a double-edged sword and they hurt more than they help, in the long run.

Stanford's patent policy. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179909)

Here's the patent policy of Stanford University [stanford.edu] . This has worked out very well for Stanford.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (-1, Flamebait)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180187)

The problem is that there should not be a patent at all. Because patents are just slack for the economy as every economist will tell you. The only leftover the free trade revolution failed to kill in the last century.

Patents for software are in particular dangerous. [stopsoftwarepatents.org]

The fact with patents is that registering a patent is like registering a trade mark. Hire more patent attorneys and you get more patents. And no one asks whether they will produce any return on investment.

An innovative company will bail the lawyers out, invest in real R&D and lobby for patent reform to overcome the madness. Research institutions should not patent at all.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (2, Insightful)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180317)

It would be nice if there was a "-1, irrelevant" downmoderation possible for responses like this.

The poster didn't ask "should I help in filing patents?" or "what are the ethical questions involved in patents?" -- you're response is roughly as helpful as offering a good recipe for barbecue (ie, potentially interesting but ultimately irrelevant).

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (3, Funny)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180477)

It would be nice if there was a "-1, irrelevant" downmoderation possible for responses like this.

It would be nice if there was a "-1, recursive" downmoderation possible for responses like this.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (-1, Offtopic)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180571)

I find it supremely ironic that I get modded as "offtopic" for point out that another comment is... offtopic.

(Presumably this comment will get modded that way too... oh well)

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180633)

No, the general public could make use of a good barbeque recipe.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (1, Interesting)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180689)

Well, it is very topical! Don't do what is wrong. Don't spread the cancer.

Why would you even want to make a scheme for employees to file more patents?

He asks how he should worship the devil. I say, there is no devil.

The patent system is useless slack. Therefore my incentive system would be that for each patent your institution has to apply for (because there is a patent system) you invest 10% of the legal costs in patent reform or abolishment. Same for all patent lawsuits and royalties you have to pay. The patent system would implode in no time and make way to a free market.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (1, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180353)

Research institutions should not patent at all.

If you want to get rid of research institutions, this is a good plan. Otherwise, it's a completely fucking stupid plan.

Many research institutions are able to do their research because their being able to patent their innovations ensures a revenue stream to pay for new research projects.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180733)

Public research is public and needs public financing.

Private research is private and needs private financing.

Turning a public institution into a patent troll is damaging for the economy.

Patents have nothing to do with research. You get more patents when you hire more lawyers to write them. There is no free lunch. You cannot create "property" by assigning rights.

As of a company keep your house clean. Don't create incentives to do what is wrong in the first place. Don't buy the snake oil from the patent attorney.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (2, Interesting)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180643)

The problem is that there should not be a patent at all. Because patents are just slack for the economy as every economist will tell you. The only leftover the free trade revolution failed to kill in the last century.

Patents for software are in particular dangerous. [stopsoftwarepatents.org]

The fact with patents is that registering a patent is like registering a trade mark. Hire more patent attorneys and you get more patents. And no one asks whether they will produce any return on investment.

An innovative company will bail the lawyers out, invest in real R&D and lobby for patent reform to overcome the madness. Research institutions should not patent at all.

I do not see why your post was moderated flamebait, it seems perfectly well reasoned.

Re:Stanford's patent policy. (2, Insightful)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180657)

That is a good patent policy for a university, but I don't see how it could work for a company. For example, at Stanford (and most other universities), the inventors have the right to place inventions in the public domain. I don't see how ANY company could let individual employees make that important a decision on what is potentially a core technology for their business.

Universities almost never want to implement the IP themselves - instead they are searching for licensees that will take the invention and make the additional investments necessary to turn an idea or prototype into a product. Companies clearly work differently, and thus need to treat their IP differently.

Both (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179917)

Give a cash bonus plus stock, but make sure you have some sort of review process to make sure the patents being filed are not clearly derivative or otherwise not likely to be granted a patent.

The cash bonus gives people an immediate reward for their work. The stock bonus gives people a sense that they are working on something that will benefit them, and not just their employer, over the long term. The review board keeps people from abusing the system by flooding you with patent applications that are highly unlikely to be accepted.

Just remember, if you make the rewards too small, no one will take the program seriously and no one will put forth any real effort to invent patentable stuff.

Royalties are better. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180283)

Then, the employee feels they are being treated a bit more fairly as apposed to some little bonus. And why not? If a company makes millions of dollars off of an employees creativity why shouldn't they partake. Whenever I hear about the Westinghouse genius grants or whatever; I want to go and shit on George Westinhhouse's grave in the memory of Tesla.

patent incentives (3, Insightful)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180385)

The review board keeps people from abusing the system by flooding you with patent applications that are highly unlikely to be accepted.

The way to help prevent abuse is to only give incentives for patents that are granted. A cash incentive can be given as soon as the application is approved, then stocks or stock options can be issues periodically. Say if it's 100 stocks after a year 25 stocks are given, after 2 years another 25 stocks are given, and so on. That way if a patent is contested after approval while the person will get something, the employer doesn't have to pay it all out.

Falcon

Re:patent incentives (2, Interesting)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180691)

The problem with that approach is that the potential payoff is too far into the future to be a real motivating factor. Patents take about 3 years to get through the system and be accepted. Especially for young startups, you can't even rely on the company still being around after that time, never mind being able to honor a long-term commitment after a merger or takeover.

A good policy thus provides a small immediate payoff, combined with a more substantial long-term benefit. As the GP suggests, you of course have to guard against abuse.

what a bad deal (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25179925)

you work for a patent troll company that pays you with burguers and toilet paper, if you invent something and accept the $5000 or shares you are an idiot.

What price your integrity? (1, Interesting)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179927)

You should quietly smile at whatever they come up with and fail to participate in it. Patents, and particularly software patents, are a huge drain on tech industry and a net drain on society. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Re:What price your integrity? (4, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179949)

If you invent something on company time and/or using company resources, they likely own it anyway. You can either participate or just give them the idea for free, because if you try and go behind their backs and patent it on your own, you're going to be in a legal mess.

Sure, you can just invent things on your own time using your own equipment, but depending on the idea and your own personal resources, that may or may not be possible.

Re:What price your integrity? (3, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180207)

Companies cannot be inventors, as far as the patent system is concerned. If the company wants a patent, it has to have the inventors apply, and have the inventors assign the patent to the company.

Re:What price your integrity? (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179997)

if it's a small company in which the employees get some say in the running of the company as some more progressive employers do, then you can offer the suggestion that all company patents be allowed to expire within a reasonable amount of time rather than being renewed indefinitely, or sold to another company who will continually renew it and prevent it from ever being released into public domain.

software patents are inherently stupid, but patents are real & innovative inventions can be beneficial to society if patents are enforced the way they were meant to (with a hard time limit). none of that disney crap where their stolen characters/stories remain copyrighted as long as the company exists, which is a lot longer than the human lifespan and not what the copyright & patent system was designed for.

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180011)

oops, the second paragraph should say "patents on real & innovative inventions" not "are real & innovative inventions..."

The Grade School Primer on Patents (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180943)

you can offer the suggestion that all company patents be allowed to expire within a reasonable amount of time rather than being renewed indefinitely
.

From the Kids' Pages [uspto.gov] of the USPTO:

Can you renew a patent after it expires?
No, you can't renew a patent after it expires. However, patents may be extended by a special act of Congress and under certain circumstances certain pharmaceutical patents may be extended to make up the time lost during the Food and Drug Administration's approval process. After the patent expires, the inventor loses exclusive rights to the invention.
whenwherehowwhy [uspto.gov]

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180129)

Patents, and particularly software patents, are a huge drain on tech industry and a net drain on society.

The vast majority of published research on this disagrees with you.

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180171)

the first claim (patents) is a stretch, but the second (particularly software patents) is not so much. Do you have any research concerning the effect upon industry of software patents in particular?

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180299)

I was referring to the first claim (patents in general).

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180597)

Patents, and particularly software patents, are a huge drain on tech industry and a net drain on society.

The vast majority of published research on this disagrees with you.

The vast majority? Have any references? Since I've asked you to provide some I'll provides some as well. Research on the MacroEconomic Effects of Patents [ffii.org] lists about 40 studies. Some, like the first one, are about software patent specifically and it says "Software patents are serving as cheap alternatives to real innovation". Another says "firms may have plenty of incentive to innovate without patents and patents may constrict complementary innovation."

Falcon

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180183)

Where did he say it's a tech or software company? There still are plenty of good, valid places to use patents.

Re:What price your integrity? (2, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180219)

You should quietly smile at whatever they come up with and fail to participate in it. Patents, and particularly software patents, are a huge drain on tech industry and a net drain on society. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

This is not a helpful response. Regardless of how you personally feel about patents, you can't opt out of the game when the rules are made by Congress and the USPTO. A strong patent portfolio is a necessary legal defense in the modern business world. Without one, you're nothing but fresh meat to every sleazy lawyer looking to make a quick buck. If you don't bother to patent your own IP, you can rest assured that some patent troll will do it for you.

Your "solution" will do nothing but drag your employer through needless litigation, and quite possibly cost you your job if a multimillion dollar judgment is issued against the company. If you really want to be part of the solution, lobby Congress to reform the patent process itself. But until that happens, play the game the way it needs to be played.

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180311)

until that happens, play the game the way it needs to be played

Your logical fallacy is called a false dilemma [wikipedia.org] . There are more than two ways to play the game. This would be a fine time to exercise your powers of reason to see what others you can discover.

Re:What price your integrity? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180447)

If you don't bother to patent your own IP, you can rest assured that some patent troll will do it for you.

You can release an invention into the public domain. While patent trolls can still sue, they have to prove they came up with the invention first. On the other hand having a patent portfolio can be used as a weapon against others threat to sue. "You using our patent so unless you license this patent of yours we'll sue." A better solution to all this BS is to get rid of patents. If there are no patents then nobody has to be concerned about infringing on a patent or patent trolls.

Falcon

Re:What price your integrity? (2, Interesting)

timholman (71886) | more than 6 years ago | (#25181005)

You can release an invention into the public domain. While patent trolls can still sue, they have to prove they came up with the invention first.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. If the patent troll sues, you have to countersue to get their patent declared invalid on the basis of prior art. Why should the troll have to validate his patent? The USPTO has already validated it by issuing the patent in the first place. It's up to you to overturn that validation in court. Don't think that making your product open source will protect you from litigation - quite the contrary.

On the other hand having a patent portfolio can be used as a weapon against others threat to sue. "You using our patent so unless you license this patent of yours we'll sue."

Exactly. One strategy is make a competitor back off is to threaten to countersue with your own portfolio. Or, if a patent troll threatens you, you can point to your own patent and say "We're not violating your patent. This is an implementation of our own patent." Then the shoe is on the other foot, and the patent troll must invalidate your patent. Hopefully, the added cost of litigation will make the troll back off.

A better solution to all this BS is to get rid of patents.

As far as business method patents and software patents are concerned, I'm in complete agreement. However, I realize that my wishes and desires do not change the reality that such patents exist, are granted weekly by the USPTO, and must be dealt with rather than ignored in the business world.

Re:What price your integrity? (2)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180327)

Poster didn't say anything about the patents in question being software patents. Do you really think that the very concept of patents is hopelessly flawed?

Thank you /. readers (1)

SoulMaster (717007) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180459)

and mad.frog especially,

I really didn't want to rekindle the debate about whether patents (or software patents) are a good or bad thing. I've been a /. reader (responder) for quite a while and understand the general consensus about patents here.

I really am only trying to understand what people who have been involved in these programs have seen before. My overall goal of this research is to help develop a program management will accept before anyone says "you work for us, we own the patents anyway" and does away with PIPs all together. Most of the people I work with (including me) love our jobs and I are just trying to get a fair result.

I suppose I should have mentioned that we have a patent/idea review board in place to determine what we would like to spend time on (judge value, creativeness, patentability) before we begin even the provisional process, but I wanted to keep the question simple.

Thank you to all who have chimed in with the various programs you have seen and/or have been involved with.

Thanks again all,

-SoulMaster

Re:Thank you /. readers (0)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180687)

we have a patent/idea review board in place to determine what we would like to spend time on

How about spending your time on developing a business model that uses some other form of IP protection than patent trolling? Or one that uses no protection at all, other than your own agility and willingness to supply what is best for the customer, faster and better than the next guy?

Re:Thank you /. readers (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180971)

Even if we accept that the patent system is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed, getting patents does not make you a patent troll. TROLLING with those patents makes you a patent troll.

Let's create an analogy with violence. Assume:

1. Guns are bad.
2. There is in the universe exactly one gun.
3. This gun is indestructible.
4. Only the first person to touch that gun can ever use it.

Is the person who takes that gun necessarily bad? I'd say no. I hope I get it, because then I'm pretty sure I'll never get shot (at least not by a gun).

five hundred bucks, and a nice dinner (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25179955)

We are a research driven company and a really fun place to work.
A patent gets you an invite to a very yummy annual dinner, with a nice talk by the CEO.
Oh, five hundred bucks cash, too, not to mention one of those spiffy patent plaques.
Some of the heavy hitters have rows of them in their offices.
Journal papers get you the same treatment. Conference papers get you nothing, alas, since plenty of the researchers crank them out.

But right now your humble AC just wishes he could get another conference paper published, dinner or no dinner...

Sorry... (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179967)

I am pretty sure the discussing that would be a violation of NDA.

Re:Sorry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180025)

I am pretty sure the discussing that would be a violation of NDA.

that's what the anonymous coward button is for.

The basic premise of the policy is flawed (4, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179979)

Because more patents are not necessarily better [cnet.com] .

Additionally, certain patent acquirement strategies significantly increasethe risk of being the target of patent lawsuits [m-cam.com] , because they paint a bullseye on your company's strategic development, enabling patent trolls to predict it, patent "alongside" your development and sue you based on that.

And then there's still this whole patent bubble [huffingtonpost.com] that's still forming, fairly similar to how the whole credit crisis came to be. In time, the value of patents is going to come crashing down just as spectacularly, regardless of how many times you repeat the holy yet hollow mantra "but our intellectual property must be protected!"

Re:The basic premise of the policy is flawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180077)

But unfortunately this does not answer the question, and I'm sure that the person asking this question is well aware of many slashdotter's personal views regarding patents. Regardless of how many times you repeat your holy mantra "patents are evil", the fact remains that patents are what drives most research and technological progress in the world.

Re:The basic premise of the policy is flawed (3, Insightful)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180261)

"the fact remains that patents are what drives most research and technological progress in the world"

Which shows that you have no clue about the economic research on the patent system.

Sure, statistic research which measures 'innovation' of a nation by the number of patents granted (or "applied for" as we don't have good data on granting, it takes 4-5 years to examine a patent) will find that more patents mean more innovation but the fact is that the patent system is based on economic voodoo. It is a belief system with the assumption that you can create property.

As it is an incentive system we don't know if an economy is better off with a patent system than without. Therefore a patent system is not "justified". At least in the field of software and business methods and other service sectors the system is very damaging [stopsoftwarepatents.org] as it was not made for these markets.

Re:The basic premise of the policy is flawed (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180355)

It is a belief system with the assumption that you can create property.

And what makes you think you can't? That's what manufacturing is about, you know, creating property and selling it. For that matter, that's what agriculture is all about once you get past the subsistence stage.

Re:The basic premise of the policy is flawed (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180933)

A patent is a "right".

Cole writes "...these rights do not arise from the scarcity of the appropriated objects; rather, their purpose is to create scarcity, thereby generating a monopoly rent for holders of such rights. In such case, the law does not protect property over a scarce good, since the law itself created the scarcity, and this artificial scarcity generates the monopoly rents that confer value upon those rights. The big difference between patents and copyrights on the one hand, and tangible goods on the other, is that the latter will be scarce even if there are no welldefined property rights; in the case of patents and copyrights, the scarcity arises only after the property right is defined"

If you can create property by granting rights why doesn't the government grant even more rights and monopoly privileges. What does the legal sphere "create"?

And a percentage of ownership of any patent (2, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#25179999)

Some companies have made huge amounts of money off a single patent. Perhaps companies could offer employees the option to take some ownership stake in the patent (5%?), provided that they grant the company full rights to use the patent -- with the intent that, if the company makes a large sum of money by selling or licensing the patent, the employee will also benefit from this.

Re:And a percentage of ownership of any patent (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180087)

At the company where I work, most of the patents are only used defensively (to counter-sue another company if they try to sue us over patents), so you don't see any direct revenue generated by the patent. It certainly has the potential to save the company a lot of money, but it's difficult to calculate the value of a patent since the idea is to obtain a settlement or cross-licensing agreement, probably for several patents at once.

Re:And a percentage of ownership of any patent (3, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180149)

At the company where I work, most of the patents are only used defensively

I think that what offends employees is when a company pays a pittance to an employee for filing the patent, but years later make a huge windfall profit out of suing others. Partial ownership of any such profits or partial ownership in any profits made through selling the patent to someone else would take away this issue. As long as there is no cash gain from the patent, the partial owner does not gain from it.

The scheme would take a couple of other provisions: a royalty free, perpetual license granted to the employer (for us of the patent in its products), valid unless there was a change of control of the company. This would also the company to use the patent, and would allow the employee to profit should the patent become so valuable that the company was bought to get control of the patent.
It the company does successfully use the patent defensively, the employee should get some kind of bonus out of it. The patent may have just saved the company from shutting down, so why not some kind of bonus?

Re:And a percentage of ownership of any patent (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180335)

I know of a company that does this - employees get a very small percentage of licensing revenue for the patent, and every so often (annually?) get a payment from the company on those things.

you've got it backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180021)

Think about what it is you are trying to encourage. Preparing a patent for filing is a pain in the butt and takes a lot of time. Consider putting the bulk of the award for filing the patent and give another smaller bonus if it's granted. Also, consider grossing up the award so it doesn't get eaten up by taxes and other withholdings.

Funny, a company I'd worked for in the past used the term PIP as well but it meant "Performance Improvement Plan" aka preparing a paper trail to fire your non-performing butt.

Re:you've got it backwards (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180101)

All that does is encourage people to file lots of crapplications that will never stand a chance of being issued.

Re:you've got it backwards (1)

KPU (118762) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180133)

Indeed. The scary part is they still get issued.

Re:you've got it backwards (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180229)

I've been employed in 3 companies that have had varying patent incentive programs over the years. During that time I applied for and was granted 38 patents, in the US and in other nations. None of these were software or business process patents.

The various incentives amounted to an attaboy on the low end up to a hundred shares of stock (worth about $100 per share) per granted patent.

The money was nice, and in some cases there was a reception or dinner involved with a famous speaker which was generally fun. Other times there were plaques, or little trophies inscribed with "Excelsior!" or some such.

Did any of it affect my behavior, or make it more likely I would try to patent something? Not really. Did any of it materially affect my company's business? A little, because it made them feel more comfortable about the security of entering a certain area of business. But none of it really provided the company with a monopoly - there were always alternate technologies that could be used to get the same result, but maybe not as efficiently or cleanly.

If I was going to do it I'd choose the recognition ceremony / famous speaker approach. It meant more to me that the senior management of the company took some time out of their schedule and spent it with the R&D people than than the money or stock did. And think this kind of approach is less likely to distort the inventor's decisions as to what is worth pursuing and what is not. And besides meeting a real live astronaut or Nobel Laureate is way cool.

Re:you've got it backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180673)

And besides meeting a real live astronaut or Nobel Laureate is way cool.

Lucky. We only get to meet dead Nobel Laureates at our company.

Re:you've got it backwards (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180953)

I've met some of those too, but not at my company, rather in a university cemetery.

typical bonus amounts (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180059)

$500 for the initial writeup is about average.

$2000 for the filing is about average.

The bonus for having the patent granted is all over the place, but not a very good incentive because it takes many years to happen -- and a lot of people move on by then.

They're cash, not equity, and there's usually a limit on the total bonus per patent -- if you many inventors on the same patent, then the limit kicks in. For example: $2000 per inventor per filing, or $6000 total divided across all the inventors, whichever is less.

Don't ask how I know all this...

Ummm.... (1, Funny)

martinQblank (1138267) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180063)

Why does asking this question on /. seem a lot like walking into a biker bar wearing a feather boa and asking for a virgin Tom Collins?

Son, you might be in the wrong bar...

Re:Ummm.... (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180111)

Why does asking this question on /. seem a lot like walking into a biker bar wearing a feather boa and asking for a virgin Tom Collins?

Son, you might be in the wrong bar...

Considering who has the power in the world, it's more like the other way around -- a biker in full leathers walking into a foofy juice bar asking for a straight Jack Daniels. He still ain't going to get it, but it isn't him in physical danger.

Anyway, if you're a startup, you'd better not make it all equity; your employees know there's a good chance that equity ain't worth squat. All cash or cash plus equity.

Err? (5, Insightful)

cartman (18204) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180151)

The entire idea of a "patent incentive program" seems preposterous to me. Why on earth would a company want to incentivize employees to churn out patents? Patents are usually worthless. The vast majority of patents (like 99%) have absolutely no value. Most patents will not yield enough money to recover the $5000 spent on incentivizing the employee, to say nothing about the many thousands spent on patent attorneys.

Generating valuable intellectual property is enormously more difficult, and far more valuable, than patenting things. I could come up with 10 patentable ideas off the top of my head (and I have patents from various employers).

I would also have grave concerns about any company that focused on patents. In almost every such company I've dealt with, they did not have any intellectual property worth patenting. It is an absurd presumption for any company that they will turn out discovery after discovery which warrants protection, or that they will turn out discovery after discovery if they institute an incentive to do so. Instead of worrying about patents, their concern should be having one discovery or one program that is worth anything at all. If they manage that, then they'll be ahead of 90% of startups. But if they concern themselves with protecting intellectual property rather than generating it then they're in big trouble.

However, if the company is insistent on offering incentives for patents, then it should offer incentives based upon how much money others will pay to license the intellectual property and use the patent. If the amount others are willing to pay for a given patent is "$0" (most likely) then the incentive to employees should be nothing.

In other words, if they offer a monetary incentive per patent, then the employee is paid to produce any kind of patent. The idea is absurd. Happily, the USPTO no longer accepts patents for perpetual motion machines, otherwise I as an employee would generate 20 patents just for that.

Re:Err? (2, Insightful)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180263)

These systems are not typically run to create an incentive for employees to churn out patents. The employee has already done the invention as part of his/her work and, generally, the company already has the right to patent it without the employee's further involvement. Often, though, the right folks at the company don't know about an invention. So, the program is there to create an incentive for those who know about the inventions to tell the appropriate people in the company.

The incentive has to be large enough to make it worth the employee's time to pick up the phone and do the legwork to describe it, but not so large that it motivates the employee to stop doing his/her job and start focusing on inventing.

Re:Err? (1)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180273)

The vast majority of patents (like 99%) have absolutely no value

A lot software patents end up being defensive, so that when Company A threatens Company B with patent violations, Company B can respond in kind. Case in point, from 2002:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/05/13/macromedia_wins_4_9m/ [theregister.co.uk]

Macromedia Inc yesterday said that it won a patent infringement lawsuit it is fighting with rival Adobe Systems Inc, and has been awarded $4.9m damages by the jury, almost twice as much as Adobe was awarded in a related case two weeks ago.

Re:Err? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180479)

The company won't pursue patents that are of little value. You'd have a pretty hard time convincing legal that they should waste their budget on filing stupid patents.

Re:Err? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180897)

How the hell would legal know the value of a patent? Technical innovation isn't their field of expertise, otherwise the company could simply get rid of all their engineers and hire more lawyers.

We've seen how that worked out for SCO.

Re:Err? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180913)

hint: stereotypes are not real.

Re:Err? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180987)

What stereotypes? Nontechnical people make up their views on the value of an invention based on talking with technical people. Perhaps you live in a different world?

Re:Err? (2, Interesting)

tambo (310170) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180505)

Why on earth would a company want to incentivize employees to churn out patents?

Err... they don't. They churn out inventions. The incentive is to get them to talk to the IP group at the company before publication. What the company decides to patent is its own business.

Most patents will not yield enough money to recover the $5000 spent on incentivizing the employee, to say nothing about the many thousands spent on patent attorneys.

1) The utility ratio ("useful" patent out of the total number of patents) depends on how good the IP group is at identifying inventions worth pursuing. Yes, a company that tries to patent everything will get socked with a mountain of fees in exchange for very little valuable IP. But a good triage process can greatly extend the value of the IP dollar.

2) Most companies that produce products aren't trying to sell their patents - they're trying to protect the value of their R&D. It's practically impossible to put a dollar figure on that, but any MBA will tell you that these are incredibly important assets for any company that does research and develops products. Instead of worrying about patents, their concern should be having one discovery or one program that is worth anything at all.

How about drug companies that are simultaneously researching therapeutic agents for dozens or hundreds of diseases? I think they probably generate a steady stream of patentable remedies.

However, if the company is insistent on offering incentives for patents, then it should offer incentives based upon how much money others will pay to license the intellectual property and use the patent.

I agree with you - IF the company wants to license its IP. If (like most product-producing companies) it's more interested in protecting its R&D, that's a whole different ballgame.

- David Stein

When you get more/biigger (2, Interesting)

jhines (82154) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180165)

Hold a fancy formal dinner each year. So that the wife/so can get dressed up and party. Have previous years winners also attend.

The company I did some work for, does this, and it is looked forward to all year by the engineering crowd, the usual recepients. Of course, being a large fortune 500 firm, they had lots of patents and people involved.

It was like another mark of achievement, making it into the patent ball.

Patent Programs-- (5, Interesting)

sillivalley (411349) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180177)

I'm a patent attorney in Silicon Valley, and have worked with, under, and around a number of different schemes.

This isn't legal advice -- these are my opinions -- if you want legal advice, go buy some.

It is common to condition payment of filing awards on the signing of the declaration, oath, and assignment by the inventor -- the company doesn't pay until the inventor has signed.

Some also condition payment on being an employee at the time of the event -- filing the patent, issue date of the patent. That way you don't have the obligation to pay departed employees. But having said that, whoever is running the scheme should have the discretion to pay out equal amounts to ex- and non- employees when named on filed and/or issued patents. You get more interest and attention that way.

Another common approach is to pay $N per inventor for up to 4 named inventors, and for N>4 to pay each inventor $4N/k where k is the number of inventors.

Some places pay on disclosure submission. If you decide to do that, pay on *accepted* disclosures, not everything that gets thrown over the wall. While you want lots of disclosures, you don't want a lot of crap.

Decide at the outset *when* you're going to pay inventors -- some pay and present quarterly with great fanfare. My opinion is that significantly decouples the desired behaviour from reward. I much prefer having a system where things get filed, I send a note to payroll, and the $$ automagically appears in people's next paychecks. That system also minimizes the chances of people dropping through the cracks over a quarter. Yeah, have quarterly or annual beer bashes where you honor inventors as well, but don't hold up the money!

Oh, as part of that whole deal, work out with your finance types which department pays for awards -- my feeling is that it should follow who pays for filing, prosecution, issuance, and maintenance costs. If the division/group (hardware, let's say) pays for filing and prosecution, they should pay for awards. On the other hand, if filing and prosecution gets billed to G&A (corporate overhead) then awards should follow. Doing it that way puts awards costs into the entire life-cycle costs of a patent filing.

you are a whore (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180395)

and whores go to hell

Re:Patent Programs-- (2, Insightful)

UncleFluffy (164860) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180481)

(IANAL, but I've been involved in this stuff a good few times...)

Some also condition payment on being an employee at the time of the event -- filing the patent, issue date of the patent. That way you don't have the obligation to pay departed employees.

Be careful when considering this. Given the time taken for a patent to work its way through the system, making payment conditional on continued employment can be regarded badly by employees - after all, you got the work and the patent, why are you using the slowness of the process as an excuse for not paying for value received? Aside from that, there's often additional paperwork to be done later on. People who feel ripped off might just not feel like signing assignment forms, which has the potential to cost you a whole lot more than the cash bonus would have.

Re:Patent Programs-- (2, Informative)

sillivalley (411349) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180577)

...And that's why in the next breath I said the administrator of the program should have the discretionary ability to pay out awards to non- or ex- employees!

Long-term compensation (1)

paladin217 (226829) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180193)

One important fact to remember is that patent prosecution takes a considerable amount of time. Assuming one files a provisional application, waits the allotted year, then files the non-provisional application, you are looking at 3-4 years before a patent examiner even touches the case. With further legal wrangling, it could be many more years before the patent is issued.

So, this leaves the question: is the company going to keep tabs on people who leave the company who are also listed as inventors on an application to pay them? Is it going to be on the named-inventor to make sure he gets paid?

God help me, but.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180195)

IBM has a similarly tiered structure. I am not 100% correct here, but IIRC they pay $1,500 for the first one, $750 for each thereafter, plus $1,200 for each of group of 4 as you make you way through so-called "plateaus". Each inventor receives max payout when a disclosure has up to 4 inventors, but everyone splits the max payout when there are five or more inventors. The payouts above are just for the acceptance by the company's review board. I believe there is an additional payout if/when your submission is granted a payout, but none of mine have made it that far yet. There are no rules or guidance as to what types of patents may be submitted, although business process patents are not well-received.

I also worked for a company that will accept any patent application, and they only have one payout - $3,000 if they like your idea. There's an interesting twist, though, in that the second company forbids inventors from looking for prior art, while IBM encourages it. The other company's counsel claims that if you perform any search, you *must* become fully aware of *all* prior art that could possibly compete. IBM's counsel disagrees and appreciates the guidance on what to look for when we submit ideas as they may otherwise not know where to start.

I've already said too much.

Even if I could help I wouldn't (0, Offtopic)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180201)

I'm more interested in seeing an end to software patents which is why if I was going come up with something worthy of a patent I would do the work outside of my job so it's mine completely and can't be claimed by my company.

Luckily my employer isn't a software company so it's easier to do this.

Seems common based on annual reports (2, Informative)

eison (56778) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180221)

Cash patent bonus programs appear to be common. Public companies will mention them in their 10-K filings as it is often part of executive compensation (generally not limited to just executives, it just gets mentioned with executive compensation because they have to report on executive compensation.) Just google '"annual report" "patent bonus"' and '10-k "patent bonus"' and '"executive compensation" "patent bonus"'.

A personal touch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180237)

eBay has something along the lines of what you mentioned, however one nice touch that they have is that upon the filing of the actual patent you get a jacket that says "eBay Inventor's Club". The jackets come in 3 varieties and gives a bit of a personal touch.

You must be new here... (1)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180245)

Hard to imagine a more anti-patent site than Slashdot. Most of your answers are likely to be "Patents are evil."

But since you asked...

Cash bonuses are nice. Equity is good too if likely to be comparable.

But don't stop at money -- make a big deal of it, make sure they get recognition among their peers. The current software patent system in the US may be... suboptimal, in terms of bad patents that get thru, but it *shouldn't* be -- in theory, getting a patent granted should be a Big Deal and something that someone can really be proud of. Make sure you treat it that way.

Carrots with no stick. (0)

wiresquire (457486) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180249)

That's fine if you want to end up just having as many patents as possible. But you are not creating quality patents for true innovation.

How about a more balanced approach. As well as your incentives above, include:

1. $500 fine for any patent rejected by the USPTO
2. $1500 fine for anything that has prior art
3. $5000 fine for anyone submitting a frivolous patent

After all, if you expect everyone to know what can be patented, you should also expect them to know what can not be patented.

ws

Re:Carrots with no stick. (1)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180297)

Have you ever actually gone thru a patent application process? All of the above are things that are weeded out very early in the process (assuming you have patent attorneys who have any experience whatsoever). It's not the engineer's job to try to exclude things -- in fact, a good patent attorney will try to include as many things as possible in order to have the broadest reach for the resulting patent.

As for "quality" of patents -- well, they aren't rated like bonds, either they are granted or they aren't. This is why people lament various semi-questionable patents; they're just as valid as the world-changing patents are.

Re:Carrots with no stick. (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180507)

"in fact, a good patent attorney will try to include as many things as possible in order to have the broadest reach for the resulting patent."

Have you ever actually gone through the patent application process? (sorry, I had to correct your teenage chatspeak grammar) A good patent attorney will try to include things that are pertinent to the invention in a way that makes the patent as solid as possible without including a bunch of frivolous claims that, while increasing the possibility of predatory or intimidating lawsuits against small fish, only serve in the end to weaken the patent to anyone who actually challenges its validity. That's what a *good* patent attorney does.

A patent attorney who writes the patents in such away as to allow the owner to sue as many small fish as possible to generate settlement funds is not a good patent attorney.

I've applied for numerous patents and each time the attorney spends weeks working with me, weeding out any claim that is weak, questionable, or unnecessary to adequately protect the underlying invention.

Re:Carrots with no stick. (1)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180565)

Have you ever actually gone through the patent application process?

three patents granted... one ended up winning my company a $4 million settlement in a patent violation lawsuit. does that count? :-)

I never said anything about frivolous claims. Of course you don't want your patent to include "weak, questionable, or unnecessary" claims... but you do want it to be as broad as possible within the primary scope of the patentable claim.

Every time you file a patent god kills a kitten (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180271)

Patents aren't good for innovation. Probably not when they were created and certainly not now. They stifle innovation and make it a risk to get anything to market much more than they help things by dangling that massive carrot of exclusive rights to get rich. I'd rather see a patent disincentive program where every time a patent is revoked, people get money. Or perhaps every time a patent is filed the person filing the patent loses a limb and a loved one.

Equity Options? Don't fall for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180329)

Cash is cash, stock options are mostly worthless paper. Statistically speaking 9 out of 10 companies either go out of business, or their stock never gains significant value. That being the case, it would take a $50,000 stock incentive to be equal to $5000 cash.

Unfortunately, anyone who raises this issue with management is accused of not believing in the company. It's a Catch-22: Don't complain, and have a 90% chance of getting nothing, or point out the inequity between cash and options, and risk getting fired or losing management's confidence.

I once had over $1,000,000 in "paper value" of stock options. In less than a year, the same options were worth exactly $0.

Cash, Stock and Time (1)

mgooderum (446711) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180349)

I'm going to avoid the topic of the relative goodness/badness of patents and address the question at hand.

Bonuses in my experience have been in the range of $1k-$2k for filing and $2k-$5k for granted. As noted above a big issues is what is the policy for patents granted to former employee inventors. I have missed out on all of my granted bonuses because all of my patents have been granted after I had moved on.

I would definitely have a cash component to the bounus - most of us have gotten savvy enough about the real odds on options payoff so it isn't necessarily a reward. At this point I view options as a quid pro quo for risk but not a substitute for fair salary and at least semi-reasonable workload.

The keeping in touch factor is a real issue - successful patents often involve one or more refilings and access to the inventor can be very helpful in adjusting claims or clarifying details. One former employer had the typical policy of not paying bounus for employees after they left. They had gotten back in touch with me about taking time to review a redone application which would have involved several hours of work. Given the lack of any reward compenent I requested a basic consulting rate for my time and they refused to I pretty much told them they were on their own.

A more recent former employer has a policy of paying bonuses to former employees if the employee can be reached within two years of the bonus event and providing they were cooperative in assisting any follow up reviews. Given that I have been cooperative and helpful with a couple of review and clarifications along the way.

Last but not least some places give a bonus premium on the "primary" versus additional inventors.

So in developing your policy pick amounts and make sure you are explicit either way about the bonus disposition for departed employees. The bonus progam can be an incentive for the innovators in the company as well as a tool to help get cooperation on the followup even if they have moved on.
--
Mark

Bell Labs (1)

Dr.Pete (1021137) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180375)

Back before the ass fell out of Bell Labs, they paid their researchers $1K per provisional filed. Yes, that's "provisional". As a side note, in the lobby of the Murry Hill facility, they had a patent clock. When I visited a few years ago, the clock was up to over 26,000 (I forget the exact #) and had ticked over by a few by the end of my three hour lab tour. I heard numerous stories about people (during the hey-day) putting their kids through college exclusively on patent rewards. Might be part of why they're French and closed and now...

Common info (2, Interesting)

tambo (310170) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180391)

I spent several years as in-house patent counsel for a hospital with a large research institute. We had a very interesting population of potential inventors - basic researchers, doctors of all stripes, and the entire range of healthcare workers.

We developed a disclosure program with a more practical twist: financial rewards were based on the successful commercialization of the technology, with a 40% share of royalties going to the inventors (to be split among them.) We also ran many non-financial recognition programs - plaques for implemented ideas, annual recognition dinners for anyone with a submitted idea, etc.

This arrangement had several advantages over the bonus-upon-filing/issuance arrangement:

  • We didn't get hit with a flood of bad disclosures from employees who were just trying to cash in.
  • Our inventors were encouraged (both literally and through the fee structure) to remain actively involved in the technology - not just the patent process, but also the marketing and licensing deals.

Some other thoughts:

  • Intra-organization advertising was key. The biggest reason why inventors weren't participating was simply that they didn't know our group existed. And due to employee turnover and short memory spans, the population needed frequent notices of our program, so this was just an ongoing mission.
  • One step up the line from education is a triage process. Be sure to have a solid team of broadly trained individuals who can review disclosures, do some market and patentability research, and thresh the wheat from the chaff.
  • On the whole, our inventors were excellent: creative, eager to explain and show, willing to learn about the IP process and to devote time to doing their part. Best of all, very few of them were motivated by money - most just wanted to see their inventions turned into products.
  • As for distribution of royalties among inventors - the easiest and fairest way to handle this is to have the inventors agree, UP FRONT (i.e., on the disclosure form), as to their respective contributions to the invention. Let them work it out among themselves, and get it documented ASAP. Waiting until royalties actually materialize is a recipe for disaster.
  • As a last observation - I think the reward strategy you've set out is a little unusual in two aspects: (1) The rewards are comparatively VERY large. $5k for an issued patent? Seriously? I don't think such high fees are going to promote innovation - they'll probably promote get-rich-quick thinking among the employees. (2) It's a little odd to have several inventor rewards for various stops along the patenting process. Usually, the inventor only participates in the *patent* process through filing... seems odd to reward them further based on work by your IP counsel.

Good luck! - David Stein

Apple has a bonus program. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180433)

IIRC, Apple pays $5K to anyone listed on a patent. They also get a plaque when the patent issues.

-jcr

My company (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180439)

My company pays $100 for an invention disclosure (regardless of whether they elect to pursue a patent... I make it a point to dream up at least one of these every day)

$1500 if they decide to file a patent application.

And nothing beyond that...

More than we get! (1)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180443)

I work for a software company that you have probably heard of. AFAI can remember we get £500 for a patent that sticks. Not sure of the details though (thankfully our government doesn't allow software patents yet).

Time vs. money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180539)

Since patents take so many years to issue, your award on issuance is not much of an incentive, even though it is the largest amount. Not many people are going to work on a patent because they think they might get some money if they happen to be working for the same company five years later. You'd be better off moving more (or all) of the incentive to the filing.

Ronald J Riley (1)

rjriley (876688) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180569)

Without patents large vested interests would simply take all the inventions startup companies produce for their and only their profit.

Slashdot is not the right place to seek advice about these issues because for the most part it is populated by entitlement minded dullards who never have original ideas. I find Slashdot forums rate next to use groups in quality of content.

Most certainly university patent policies are a good place to look for guidance in this matter. There is a forum for university technology transfer named Techno-L which is located at Techno-L.org.

www.InventorEd.org has a forum where you can get advice on this issue named Inventors-L@InvEd.org. I suggest that you could also seek advice there.

The Professional Inventors Alliance www.PIAUSA.org has a forum named PIADiscuss-L@PIAUSA.org where you could talk with other inventors who have launched companies.

You might also find useful information about this issue on the Licensing Executives Society www.LES.org web site.

Ronald J. Riley,

Speaking only on my own behalf.
Affiliations:

President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
Senior Fellow - www.patentPolicy.org
President - Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

Re:Ronald J Riley (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180873)

"Without patents large vested interests would simply take all the inventions startup companies produce for their and only their profit."

The patent system does not work for start-ups. Patenting makes only sense when you can build up a portfolio. You cannot enforce a patent against a large player because in our world of patent madness the larger player has at least x trivial patents you infringe. Remains the patent troll. To become a patent troll you have to be able to finance 400k lawsuits which may last several years. Either you concentrate on your product development or on legal action. Real start ups just have no time for the patent process.

Examination of a patent takes 5 years. Either you are bankrupt before you get the patent or no "startup" anymore.

"Slashdot is not the right place to seek advice about these issues because for the most part it is populated by entitlement minded dullards who never have original ideas. I find Slashdot forums rate next to use groups in quality of content."

At least they know that patent attorneys are perpetrators. Get me the economist who tells that the patent system makes sense. Machlup's conclusions still hold.

I found an interesting article of Cole [mises.org] .

Why protect it? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180579)

Why does your company feel the need to protect its alleged intellectual property?

First of all, how many collective shoulders has your company stood upon in order to "invent" this intellectual property in the first place? How much of what went into it is actually original innovation, and how much is directly due to the collective ingenuity of the heads on all those other shoulders upon which you have been standing?

Second, exactly how long do you suppose it will be before the patent is granted? Is it possible that this intellectual property will become effectively obsolete before the patent is even granted? If the patent is granted, what's the use in having it if the innovation will be superceded and obsoleted long before the patent expires? Does your company intend to become a patent troll, and litigate the patent long after any period of genuine originality?

Knowledge just wants to be free. Trying to keep tabs on who owns which tiny piece of it is just unnecessary (and massive) bookkeeping that creates jobs for people who ought to be doing something constructive instead. The way to create more innovation is to fire all the patent officials and lawyers and engage them in actually creating themselves, rather than tabulating and litigating someone else's creations. I don't care if your next door neighbor happened to come up with The Most Brilliant Idea Ever one week before you did: you're both entitled to the full fruits of that knowledge, regardless who happened to think of it first.

Re:Why protect it? (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180753)

It boils down to the question if novelty is relevant.

Why patent software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180683)

I've always viewed software like a book and most people I know do the same. You don't patent a book - you publish it. And get rights that way. The software industry screwed the pooch big time trying to get its products treated like "inventions".

mo3 0p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180859)

projeCt returns [goat.cx]

ReferenceDesk (1)

ReferenceDesk (1014631) | more than 6 years ago | (#25180865)

There are a couple of different elements that can influence how well an incentive program works. First, are you compensating for effort, or for perception? If your company actually gets the inventor involved in drafting the patent application, there could be tens of hours of "off the clock" work involved, and thus a significant cash bonus might be in order. If on the other hand the process is "spend an hour being interviewed by the patent lawyer, then sign something," the goal of the incentive is less to compensate for the extra work, and more to promote the idea of inventorship within the company. This ties into the second issue, which is how tightly coupled the timing is between the patent-related work, and the compensation for that work. Issuance of a patent can take years, so that a compensation plan that focuses on a big award at the end may not be much of an incentive to a developer who figures their half-life in any one company is around 18 months. Finally, what's the corporate goal of the incentive program? Putting a bounty on idea submissions may bring a lot of good ideas into the open, but also runs the risk of being "gamed". Focusing on patent applications implies that the company actually plans on paying the legal fees needed to create and file those applications. Are there structures in place to review idea submissions, figure out which are both strategically valuable and likely to survive patent examination, and manage what will be a multi-year process? Also be aware that there's a hidden "gotcha" in these compensation programs -- identifying who to award. Nothing ruins morale more than seeing someone who doesn't deserve kudos being rewarded, while the true innovators are quietly ignored. There's also legal risk, if the actual inventors aren't named on the patent application. Your mileage may vary, but the examples of IP incentive programs I've seen work have combined two elements: a modest cash reward for idea submission, and a larger cash award or stock grant on patent application.

Incentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180915)

At least where I work, the main incentive for getting patents is what they were originally intended for - protection against thieving bastards.
Without that we'd get put out of business by someone with a ripoff product who can undercut us because they spent $0 on R&D, whereas that's the majority of our costs. Keeping a job is a good enough incentive for me.

I could probably get away with not posting this anonymously, but it doesn't hurt to be paranoid once in a while.

My company's incentive program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#25180957)

My company offers $100 for patent applications that make it past our internal committee, $500 for those that make it past our lawyers to be filed with the USPTO, and $1000 for granted patents.

At least in theory. In practice, I don't know of anybody who has actually received the bonus from the cheap, lying bastards. So the next thing I invent is going to get disclosed in a comment on Slashdot.

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