Ethics in research question

Jonathan Priluck jamcorp at
Fri Aug 20 16:19:48 EST 1993

In article <1993Aug20.111334.15773 at> klier at writes:
>In article <CBzJEH.1yo at>, jamcorp at (Jonathan Priluck) writes:
>> In article <1993Aug18.173737.15741 at> klier at writes:
>>>You may have signed your rights away in a TA or RA employment contract...
>>>in some schools that's a condition of work.  I remember a very restrictive
>>>agreement that I had to sign to work in a *clerical* position at a
>>>large west-coast university-- essentially giving them rights to anything
>>>that I might patent if they chose to take the patent. ***Even if I developed
>>>the idea at home, in my own time, and it was totally unrelated to the job***.
>> 	4) Those agreements that they make people sign are illegal.  They
>> are coerced and would never stand up in court.  For that agreement to be
>> legal they would have to take you aside *after you were hired* with your
>> legal cousel if ytou so desired, and explained to you the entire policy.
>> You should then be given the opportunity to review the policy without fear
>> of job loss or retribution.. etc. etc.  Basically it is illegal to make such
>> agreements a condition of employment without following a very specific legal
>> procedure which I have never heard implemented except at Arthur D. Little
>> and at M.I.T.  
>Yes, but... anyone with lawyers on the payroll can make life expensive
>and difficult for those of us who have to *hire* legal work...
>And that is the major stick the universities can use...  Most folks don't
>realize that coerced "contracts" are unenforceable, but it's also
>difficult to prove coercion.


	You make an excellent point.  The idea, or should I say threat, that
a large entity can AFFORD to harrass you is a prevelent one.  I think to
some degree it is a real concern.  On the other hand please consider more
closely what I am trying to convey.  If you go ahead and patent something
you invent, on your own (costs between 1 and 5 thousand depending on how
much work you do yourself), without telling anyone then your case becomes
MUCH stronger.  If you know and understand the law you may not even need to
hire a lawyer to represent you, particularly if you had been busy laying the
groundwork for your case years before the "large organization" ever became
aware of what you were doing.  So I am urging folks not to give up before
they even try.  Allways remember, large organization have no idea what you
are doing, for the most part, unless you INSIST on telling them.  Resist the
temptation, its none of their business.  Ideally I think you could get a
patent and sell the rights to industry, and the employer would never even
know.  They are not looking.
	Here is another thing to consider.  There are reasons why a large
organization will THREATEN to take you to court, but there are also reasons
they wont actually bother.  The first reason is that they are used to the
threat being enough; if you are not intimidated, they might be (what does he
know that we don't? Indiviuals within the large organization start thinking
about their careers, the threat is often empty).  Another reason is cost,
they might have a lot more money than you bet they are instigating the suit
and it will cost them something, and that something comes out of sombodys
budget, and these things can get out of hand.  For every dollar you spend in
a court case you can easily make a large organization spend 10 to 100
dollars.  This is because you can do things "on the cheap" and they cannot.
The situation is not so one sided as it appears.
	That is my main point, its not as one sided as it appear, for all
sorts of reasons.  If you can keep quiet and lay a good foundation (e.g. get
a patent for yourself) by "flying low" untill you are ready then you will
probably not even be challenged (or I should say you will be challenged but
they have no intention of actually fighting so stand your ground)
	Thanks for bringing up that important point, and best of luck to

Regards Jon Priluck

*   Jonathan Aerospace Materials Corp., 41 Naples Road, Brookline MA 02146  *
*            Tel (617) 731-3637, Internet:  jamcorp at           *
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