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Does Your Employer Own Your Thoughts?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the don't-answer-that-out-loud dept.

The Courts 758

MJ writes "Evan Brown has finally lost his 7 year court battle over ownership of thoughts in his brain. Judge Henderson of the 219th District Court in Collin County, Texas granted DSC Communications Corporation, Inc (now Alcatel, USA) a Final Judgement granting DSC ownership of Mr. Brown's idea of a reverse compiler that Mr. Brown claims to have begun formulating twelve years before his employment at DSC and during his off-time while at DSC. Mr. Brown has received media coverage in print, televion and on the Internet: The John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, Wired, Computerworld. This rings similar to previous Slashdot articles on employer/employee IP rights."

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A new fan site (0, Troll)

Bad Move (774329) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873356)

Visit the Official Lynndie England Fansite [fanspace.com] .

Poll: WHICH IS BETTER (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873394)

Vote for: [calcgames.org] ceren [satindeath.net]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] perdida [img66.exs.cx]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] perdida's sister [upenn.edu]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] mercatur [mercatur.net]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] taco's wife [cmdrtaco.net]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] cowboyneal [everything2.com]
Vote for: [calcgames.org] rustina [img28.exs.cx]

Missing option: (1)

Bring back the old t (784356) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873435)

Sex with a mare

Re:Missing option: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873448)

Please choose "taco's wife" instead.

1st post! (-1, Offtopic)

gg3po (724025) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873359)

1st post!

You can take my thoughts... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873361)

but you can never take our First POSTS!

HA! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873363)

All your brains are mine!

You Know... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873364)

I'd tell you what I think, but you're gonna have to ask my employer first.

Help protest this ruling... (5, Funny)

Radon Knight (684275) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873365)

...by refusing to think at work!

Re:Help protest this ruling... (4, Funny)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873400)

I've been protesting for years

Re:Help protest this ruling... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873524)

Jesus wept. That's Captain Ahab [litquotes.com] , not Khan.

Re:Help protest this ruling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873426)

But of course no one will take a stand on this and so it will become the norm. The the more rulings that are won, the more it becomes a given. The Company owns you.

Re:Help protest this ruling... (1, Insightful)

Soruk (225361) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873497)

If my employer owns my thoughts, and everything I've created since joining the company, why can't I transfer my debts to them too?!

I tried that, it didn't work (4, Funny)

Pac (9516) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873444)

They refused to promote me to management.

Re:Help protest this ruling... (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873529)

Dude, if you're reading /. at work, they might just take that idea and patent it. Then we're all screwed.

First post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873370)

I've always wanted to do that. :-D

BIG BROTHER ALCATEL (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873371)

You can only own works that are produced. Any work that has not yet been produced is not possible to own.

Re:BIG BROTHER ALCATEL (3, Insightful)

jmccay (70985) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873417)

Ideas can be owned if they are talked about AND you sign a paper that says they own you.

Re:BIG BROTHER ALCATEL (4, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873424)

Tell it to the patent office.

KFG

Unemployed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873372)

I don't work. So no.

Re:Unemployed (1)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873458)

I know you were probably going for +1 INSENSITIVE CLOD, but this is an opportunity! I willingly quit my job to do a year-long sabbatical -- one of the better decisions in my life, I think. I learned about my self, about what makes me happy in a job, and some technical things too (that helped get me my next job). Consider this time self-employment, so only you own your thoughts.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873374)

Next question, let's move on.

No, I don't THINK so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873375)

P.S. Full Disclosure: I work for OSDN.

i think therefore i am not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873379)

but if i think about it, does that mean that slashdot owns it? or since i'm at work, does my company own it? obviously, i can never own my own thoughts now. . .i think. . .

They stole his ideas? (4, Funny)

duckandcoveranduck (797033) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873380)

That's what happens when you don't wear your tinfoil hat.

Re:They stole his ideas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873598)

RMS's head must have literally exploded when he heard about this.

Say it isn't so (5, Interesting)

Donoho (788900) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873383)

Just because it's the law doesn't mean it's fair. Why is it a company can own my ideas, but I can't own their software? How about leasing our ideas?

Re:Say it isn't so (2, Insightful)

black mariah (654971) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873455)

Get them to sign a contract stating that they're leasing your ideas and you might be onto something.

Re:Say it isn't so (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873585)

It's called a paycheque, fuckstick.

From now on I'll only think of bad ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873387)

...well, ok, I do so anyway, but now I'll have a reason.

Good thing... (4, Funny)

rd_syringe (793064) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873391)

...I do no thinking at work, or I'd be worried by this judgment.

The AFL-CIO owns my... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873392)

...votes!

Sadly, yes... (3, Interesting)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873396)

Where I work (a well-known PC gaming company) employees must sign a document that basically states that any concepts and technology are developed while employed here are property of the company.

In some ways, corporate America really treats employees like slaves.

Re:Sadly, yes... (1)

rd_syringe (793064) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873427)

But his ideas were developed before employment with the company. "Twelve years," right there in the summary.

Re:Sadly, yes... (1)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873442)

Yeah, this man's plight is really terrible.

I don't understand why the courts favored the company in this one. It seems quite clear that they did not have the rights to his personal work.

Re:Sadly, yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873443)

Yeah, except for them paying for all your housing and food and toys in the form of a salary. That, and you don't usually get sexually assaulted.

Re:Sadly, yes... (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873502)

Therefore they own the HPV I designed, built myself and payed for?

KFG

Re:Sadly, yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873475)

So why do you do it (as opposed to starting your own business or going freelance, let's say).

Re:Sadly, yes... (1)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873511)

Well, I'm not the richest individual, nor am I the most self-motivated person I know. I would require a significant personality shift in order to be my own boss.

Besides, I rather enjoy working here. :)

Re:Sadly, yes... (5, Funny)

1shooter (185361) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873527)

In some ways, corporate America really treats employees like slave.


Maybe you should tell your boss how you are enslaved working there and perhaps you will be freed.

Re:Sadly, yes... (5, Insightful)

sploxx (622853) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873528)

I wonder if all these documents and provisions of the companies are overall economically efficient....

For the particular company, it's a plus to extort it's employees in such a way. But now, with such a known case of lawful "mind-owning", maybe some people will be more careful about what ideas they'll give to their employer... thus hampering the free flow of ideas which mainly drives the economy.

The same happens IMHO with quick hiring and firing of people. Noone thinks that it is wortwhile to work more than is neccessary for not getting fired. And noone gives more of his/her ideas than what is neccessary to keep the job.

Maybe someone with knowledge of both economy and social sciences can defeat or confirm this argument?

Re:Sadly, yes... (1)

hotspotbloc (767418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873538)

In some ways, corporate America really treats employees like slaves.

I like analogy of rancher and cattle much better.

Damn lawyers (1)

CarrionBird (589738) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873397)

We keep getting closer to the point where who actually think just say, fuck it, and refuse to labor for the rest of the scumbags around them.

Re:Damn lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873508)

couldn't agree more

heh a reverse compiler. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873399)

isnt this a dream come true?

did they sue and win a judgement that is simply
vaporware?

i did not read the article. fp

it has to be said... (0, Offtopic)

blue_adept (40915) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873404)

all your thoughts are belong to us!

Re:it has to be said... (2, Insightful)

DotNM (737979) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873597)

We are the borg.... your technological and biological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.

I feel we're not getting the whole story (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873407)

Maybe it's just me, but this reporting seems so onesided. Perhaps it all boiled down to a non-compete clause that specifically forbade the guy from personally developing products similar to and based upon products sold by the company?

Ha Ha Ha Ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873409)

All Your Brain Are Belong To US Corporation

Uh... (4, Insightful)

Rinikusu (28164) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873418)

Maybe I'm missing something here, but doesn't it say he's appealing the ruling and that the appellate court said that the Judge did not meet the requirements for a final judgement and have sent the case back down to the same Judge? ???

yes, the judge made a ruling, but judge's rulings get overturned all the time. Talk to me when it gets to the Supreme Court, mkay?

Re:Uh... (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873590)

Just wait until the company wins this and all the hourly employees they've ever hired bill them for 24/7 for the entirity of their lives. The company is probably in violation of minimum wage laws if they haven't been paying for every hour every thought was conceived. If they own all thoughts, then all thoughts are works for hire, they need to start paying.

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873591)

yes, the judge made a ruling, but judge's rulings get overturned all the time. Talk to me when it gets to the Supreme Court, mkay?

What if he can't afford to keep going to court for seven, eight, ten years? It's not like he could sell his invention to make money. It's not like he could get a good reference. It's not like prospective employers appreciate having to be constantly off work to go to court.

He shouldn't have signed the contract. (4, Informative)

bretharder (771353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873421)

According to the article @ wired he signed a contract:

"The company said it owned Brown's idea because of a signed employment agreement requiring him to disclose any inventions he conceived of or developed while at the company."

Sadly right/wrong doesn't matter if it's legal...

But if he developed the idea beforehand... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873465)

I kind of thought the same thing - if your agreement is too draconian, don't sign it or get it amended to something a little more reasonable! Especially if you are coming into a place with a viable idea.

However, it does seem like if he really had an idea before he came to the company that they should not own it, as it was created beforehand. I guess the real question is if he has any witnesses or writings that indicate when he really came up with the first version of the idea.

Re:He shouldn't have signed the contract. (1)

black mariah (654971) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873492)

You're entirely correct. If he had a problem with his contract, the time to bitch was before he signed the damn thing. Sorry dude, you didn't read your contract or didn't care at the time. Tough shit. Move along.

Re:He shouldn't have signed the contract. (1)

oolon (43347) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873572)

However if the idea has not been implemented and he does not work for the company any more, he can tell them about the idea. For the company to get the idea he has to explain it to someone else (but forget all the details that make it special) or if he is unable to do that why and they are not willing to pay him for implementation everyone will end up with nothing. If he has left the company he could also claim some of the special ideas were later and give them all the generic all ready known ones.

James

From the appeal ... (2, Informative)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873430)

Here [unixguru.com] :

"The effect of this ruling is that employers in Texas can claim ownership of thoughts in their employees brains. Texas courts can and will uphold these employer claims. Texas courts can order an employee that has been fired to work for the former employer without compensation for time or expenses. What ever you have accomplished prior to going to work for your employer can become property of your your current employer."

Isn't Texas the state where you're not allowed to wear checked trousers and eating ice cream on Sunday is a capital offence? I hope so.

Re:From the appeal ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873512)

So in other words, it's time for geeks to leave Texas?

Who will Bush find to work on his Mac when it stops working?

In Soviet Russia..... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873434)

YOU own your thoughts..........uhhh wait a sec.......head fer the hills boys, we have been sold.

Re:In Soviet Russia..... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873447)

YOUR TOUGHTS own the corporations!

Shop Around, Read the Fine Print (4, Insightful)

MooseByte (751829) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873449)


There are plenty of employers out there with reasonable IP agreements to be had. Be sure to read the fine print, shop around for a company that's fair.

Frankly I think it's reasonable for a company to "own" my thoughts as related to the core business of that company, and any development activities that pertain to it.

However if my employer pays me for insurance database work and I'm writing a game in my spare time though, hell no, it's mine. And I won't sign on with any company that disagrees.

One large company I worked for asked me to declare any and all previous projects I wanted to claim as mine before I joined them. I just made it one long list, several existing and a dozen or two "someday" projects just in case. Cheap insurance. ;-)

Read carefully and work it to your advantage.

Previous Projects (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873522)

That would be pretty hard for them to manage that, your previous projects are owned by your previous employeer.

Personally id have taken their offer and told them where to shove it... but thats just me.

Depends on his Contract (2, Insightful)

rmohr02 (208447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873450)

Without reading his contract (and also due the the fact that IANAL) I cannot tell who is correct in this case. The company seems to claim the contract gives them ownership of Mr. Brown's thoughts, but I'm sure Mr. Brown is contesting that. Also, I do not know what is allowable in an employment contract in the state of Texas.

In short: don't jump to Mr. Brown's defense until you know the facts.

Not unexpected (1)

cephyn (461066) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873459)

I remember while at University we CS students basically signed a waiver saying anything we developed while in school, or using a computer in the lab, or using any concepts taught in class, was property of the university.

Way to encourage original thought.

Re:Not unexpected (1)

sploxx (622853) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873596)

[...] or using any concepts taught in class [...] was property of the university.
Wow. What else than concepts should you learn at university?
So, the university is basically stating that everything you'll do after uni in the CS will be their work...

whatever (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873461)

Good, then they can deal with the sexual harrasment charges for my thoughts every time the new secratary bends over. When I get home, I'm usually thinking about the same thing but with my girlfriend. They can have all the weird intoxicated thoughts I get on the weekends and sudden urges to pull the fire alarm too.

Seems like the guy did it to himself (1)

jhoger (519683) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873466)

If you sign one of these agreements that oblige you to disclose all inventions when you sign up with the company, you don't, and they come after you for disclosing stuff you freely gave them while employed, well, I guess you get what you deserve.

I signed one with one company. I'll never sign another as long as I can avoid it.

Want it fixed? Get rid of the judges! (2, Informative)

ElForesto (763160) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873468)

Bad judges are the reason we end up with garbage like this going on. Make sure you do your homework when voting in judicial races, and support groups that keep an eye on judges like J.A.I.L. [jail4judges.org]

Re:Want it fixed? Get rid of the judges! (3, Insightful)

black mariah (654971) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873545)

Yeah, that fucker of a judge ruled that a legally binding contract was legally binding. What a bastard, going around upholding laws like that. Someone should fire him.

For the slow amongst you, yes that was sarcasm.

OMCLs. (1)

scowling (215030) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873469)

If your employer controls what you think, does that mean that they also own what you think?

Thought Police (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873470)

Ok, this is new. I'm all for intellectual property (stupid patents aside), but ownership of an idea in another man's head?

You know what? I claim ownership to the word Spoon, the number 7, and any references to a Screaming Yellow Platypus (or its relatives). And if any of you mention the above, it's off to jail with you.

All funny business aside, this is just sick. Mr. Mannalow, please be advised that not only do we own any thoughts that come out of your head, now we own the ones on the inside as well. We 0wn you now.

Wages for 24/7 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873471)

If your employer owns the ideas you create after work then they should pay the appropriate wage for every waking hour of your day.

Re:Wages for 24/7 (1)

arose (644256) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873530)

And double fee for dreams. Working while sleeping and all that...

Appeal!!! Where's the EFF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873478)

subject says it all.

Re:Appeal!!! Where's the EFF? (1)

Bring back the old t (784356) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873536)

EFF is too busy with useless vanity fights, like against patents.

obvious (2, Funny)

fonzer (796314) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873479)

all your thoughts are belong to us

Final proof the corporations have more rights (4, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873480)

than citizens. I personally hope this gets appealed to SCOTUS- and then I say if they uphold corporate rights over citzenry, we take that as a sign that it's time for a new revolution.

Su Do Nym (4, Insightful)

freeio (527954) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873485)

Because I have a corporate past, some of my works must be published under a pseudonym. The honorable history of the "nom de plume" descends from this and other crazy rulings.

Does the record label own all the works of "Joe Skunk?" Fine, release your nest record as "Joseph Weasel" and they will never know.

Does your employer prohibit your publications without prior review, and rejects everything you say? Fine, publish under another name.

Does anyone remember the Ada language books by "Do While Jones?" They were published under a false name for just this sort of reason. (And, no, I am not Do While Jones.)

Moral? Say what you please, release what you will, but misdirect them as to who was saying it. Sometimes freedom comes with a strange price.

To paraphrase Andrew Jackson: (1)

Trespass (225077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873486)

The court has made its decision, now let's see them enforce it.

It's an idea in a guys head. How do they propose to get it out? What if it turns out to be stupid? Will DSC claim he didn't really give them the IP they now supposedly own? How can this be proved, anyhow?

Fortunately for me... (1)

neoevans (179332) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873487)

My boss doesn't pay me to think. He pays me to do. Why, if I was allowed to think, I might actually accomplish something!

Woah, that's freaky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873494)

I was skimming the headline, and I saw "Collin County, Texas ... Mr. Brown's idea of a ... compiler" and started freaking out.

After that I read the whole headline and sighed a relief that it was about someone working on a similar project who happens to have the same last name and live in the same county as me. ;)

Sounds Fishy (2, Informative)

dameatrius (182345) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873504)

If he truly wasn't working on this, I could understand. But if you read the ruling. He was working on a product with a subordinate for reverse engineering an app to high level code for the company. If he truly was working on it, he should have disclosed it when he started working there and possibly filed a patent.

bizna#tc4 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873519)

ixrc.secsup.org or gave the BSD For successful Lay down paper 1. Therefore it's of various BSD

What did he do at DSC? (2, Interesting)

numLocked (801188) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873521)

It really depends on exactly what his job at DSC was. I think if his job was in any way computer-related (which it sounds like it is), he should have to turn over the idea. If he thought it was such a great idea, he should have quit and followed through with it. I don't think he can prove he thought of the idea before he started working for DSC, so it seems to me that if he hadn't been working there chances are he wouldn't have thought of it (a little chaos theory).

thought filter (1)

rawbytes (737682) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873525)

does that mean I can get caught thinking about unrelated material during work and then notified on my pager.

Sucks to be him... (2, Funny)

Unnngh! (731758) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873531)

First, he loses a court battle against a former employer.

Then his site loses a battle against slashdot.

They offered him two million dollars in 1996 (2, Interesting)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873533)

which is damn generous for an IDEA.

Had he a prototype then I could see him holding out - but he had to be greedy.

The smart man would have jumped on that immediately and ran with the loot.

Sue for back pay? (1)

B.D.Mills (18626) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873540)

Hmm, if the company insists on owning his thoughts for 168 hours a week but only pays for 40, then the company can have the ideas ... but has to pay for the other 6700-odd hours a year that it allegedly owns his thoughts but for which it hasn't paid. That's a lot of back pay.

As long as we're licensing ideas: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873541)

I hereby issue the following idea under the GPL:

"My employer can kiss my ass"

Feel free to develop further on this idea as you see fit.

My Solution.... (1)

telstar (236404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873548)

Think about things entirely un-work-related while at work. Even if they THINK they own your thoughts, they wouldn't have the first idea how they could benefit from them. Problem solved.

There should be a quid pro quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873550)

You get a good idea of mine, and I get a percentage of any profits from the use of that idea. Signing a contract where I assign all rights to all ideas for no compensation makes me more likely to give it to the entire world as an Anonymous Coward.

rather simple to protect yourself. (4, Insightful)

Greg@RageNet (39860) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873551)

So you have the oportunity to avoid this when you sign up for employment with a new company that 'owns your thoughts' (or doesn't want you walking away from the company with an idea you derived as part of your job duties at the company). Whenever they have that clause it's common for them to have you identify your past inventions. Anything you think you may productize or is a work in your brain you should list here. If your item is on this list and your contract is like most your employer cannot lay claim to these 'previous inventions'.

And folks, FOLKS, don't sign anything you haven't read and don't understand. And if you don't like provisions in it, cross them out and initial it then sign it. There's nothing that says you have to accept their employment contract verbatim. Most HR folks won't bother to chase you down or make a big fuss if it's just 'fluff' wording anyway. Read your contract, sign it, and then accept the terms you have agreed to in writing.

We don't need more 'laws' to protect the 'poor workers' from their 'corporate enslavers', folks need to just not be f**kn p*****s when they accept a job somewhere. If the terms of employment are acceptable then take it, if not ask for different terms or look for a different employer. A job aint a handout, it's an arrangement with mutual benefit to BOTH employer and employee.

-- Greg

No, it doesn't. (2, Insightful)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873554)

No, it doesn't mean the corperation owns everything you think. It means that if you sign a contract saying so, you're bound to it. As you should be.

If you don't like it, don't sign. Better yet, get every software engineer you know to not sign these sort of agreements. And should you ever own your own company, don't use such far reaching contracts to enslave your workers.

Ok, time to sue for labor law violations (1)

clambake (37702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873556)

If they own the ideas you work on in your off-time it seems to me that sounds an awful lot like unpaid overtime, and, depending what he makes, 24 * 365 * minimum wage, maybe broke the minimum wage laws too.

This is why there is a Patent office... (1)

Zaranne (733967) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873563)

While sad, it's the way things are. He didn't finish it on his own, he finished it with the company, so I agree with the ruling. It's probably how he got the job in the first place..."see, I got this here reverse compiler thingy I've been working on for years now". Great for an interview, not so good for ownership down the road. That's the kind of stuff you hammer out when accepting a positon. He should have required, as a part of employment, partial ownership. He may not have gotten the job, but he'd own the thing now, if he'd finished it on his own.

Liability Implications (2, Interesting)

hypnagogue (700024) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873578)

Well, if my employer has ownership over anything I do during my employment, then they are clearly also liable for everything I do during my employment -- the door swings both ways. In some ways, this is a triumph over onerous individual liability insurance. Next time I rear-end some bozo on the road, I'll just honk twice and tell them to bill my employer.

Yeah, that'll work.

Going too far. (1)

Irvu (248207) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873579)

At a certain point the law and these "activist judges" have gone too far. At what point did it become imperative to protect the rights of companies over the rights of individuals. In this case the judge has clearly taken a literalist line leading to a severe circumscription of the rights of employers. I think that the John Marshall Journal has the right line.

In a sense it reminds me of a study on AI and Law that found, when dealing with Appeals court cases in West Virginia that the rule "The Coal Company Always Wins" led to 100% success when employed.

This is just sick.

unionize (2, Interesting)

clambake (37702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873582)

Well if that isn't as good reason to unionize, I'm not sure what is.

My employer doesn't own my thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9873584)

Admittedly I haven't RTFA so I don't know the nitty-gritty of the situation, but I know for sure that MY employer doesn't own my thoughts. Atleast those thoughts and work that are done out of the office on my own time.

I work for a large ad agency, probably considered one of the sleeze-balls of companies by the /. crowd (advertising is bad, right?), but there is a very, very specific clause in my employment terms, and has also been stressed in several notes that made their way around the office. It says, very specifically, that what I do on my own time is my personal work. Management has stressed this point and asked us to make sure we DON'T DO IT AT THE OFFICE during working hours. Everything beyond that is our own property. There were examples. Ideas that originated from work we did at the office is still our own personal ideas, so long as it doesn't use patented or copyrighted ideas, concepts and works. Fair enough.

It also works the other way around. We're not allowed to use our company's name for any personal work we do (such as publishing a book) unless we get prior approval. There are many rules and guidelines that show how we CAN use the company's name for PR of a book or song we write, for example, while still retaining our property rights. There are also specific clauses that say how much our company will BUY these ideas for. There is another clause, that says if we DO intend on selling out our personal works, our company would like to retain the rights to be primarily notified and allowed to bid on it. If that falls through, or if our company isn't interested, then everything's game, including competitors. Now tell me, does that sound un-fair? I thought it was pretty damn fair.

I still find it nice to know that brain-ownership by a company is still probably not the norm. To hell with companies that think they OWN YOU, rather than pay you to do your job.

SCO (1)

SuperBigGulp (177180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9873589)

I'm surprised SCO didn't try and take credit for his thoughts. After all, he worked for a company that probably once sold some hardware to another company that...
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