Ethics in research question

Jonathan Priluck jamcorp at
Thu Aug 19 11:40:26 EST 1993

In article <1993Aug18.173737.15741 at> klier at
>In article <CBz4zG.830 at>, jamcorp at (Jonathan
Priluck) writes:
>> 	Hey guys; its a cold cruel world!  When I went to school I was older
>> and wiser than my fellow students.  When I made an important discovery in
>> 1989 I patented it immediately.  I did not inform the university, my
>> advisor, or anyone else, I just applied for the patent under my name because
>> it way my idea and nobodys bussiness.  About 18 months later (just one
>> after I received my patent fron the Patent Trademark Office) the university
>> realised what I had and suddenly my project belonged to the university.
>> They still did not know I had a patent on the process, so I played it cool.
>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***.
>The choice at the time was sign or starve...
>Kay Klier  Biology Dept  UNI

	Oops.  Jon here again, and I guess there are a few *important
details* I did not explicitly state.

	1) I was a student, paying full tuition out of my own pocket, I was
not "working for" the university.  
	2) My research was not under anyones grant, it was the result of one
of those project lab type courses.  I think the university may have kicked
in a couple hundred dollars during the course for part and shit, but they do
that for all the student projects in that particular lab.
	3) As a student I signed nothing of importance, and certainly did
not agree to any rights on what I might do while at the university.  After
all I was paying to be there not vice versa.  I had the same rights as any
other *student* to use the university facilities for whatever reason.  Its not
my fault that most students dont take advantage of the facilities.  If all I
was getting was a silly degree and some boring lectures I would not have
bothered to go in the first place.  I was paying to use the facilities to
educate myself.
	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.  
	5) The Department of Commerce does not give a damn what university
policy is.  If you file for and pay for (about $1000 if you do it yourself)
your own patent then it is *yours*.  The university may fire you for breech of
their contract but that is all.  They cannot use their policy as grounds for
making claims on your patent.  Similar cases have been tried and that was
the result.  Often the university can not even fire the person because of
the reasons stated in #4 above.

	Boy; I sure hope that helps clear up a few things.  Most
"regulations" are based on the addage "make a rule catch a fool".  The idea
is that while most (99%) of these policies are legal garbage, most people
will never challenge them, they just assume..........
	If you make a really important discovery, outside of your specific
job description, go ahead and patent it.   If you never bring it to the
attention of the institution in question, and can keep quiet at work, no one
will ever know.  You will probably never even get caught.  I would never
have been "caught" if not for a juvenile need to be recognized by
authpority.  No one was paying any attention to my "silly class project"
untill I rubbed their noses in it and insisted they recognize *my important
work*.  I consider it a lesson learned.  Next time I will keep my mouth shut,
what difference does it make who "recognizes" your work?  If its good and
important then its good and imortant; GO DO SOMETHING WITH IT.
	I am still smarting from the experience.  It was so juvenile of me
to insist on recognition.  I think the university counts on this sort of
reaction and uses it to their advantage.  Publishing is another trap.  I was
all hot to publish, luckily I came to my senses in time.  If what you are
doing is important and has real commercial value the last thing you should
do is publish.  I mean that litterally.   The thing which you should do last
is publish.  After you have developed a working prototype, gotten patents,
raised capital, started a company, etc...... then when you are ready to go
to market  *then* you publish.  Or better still forget the whole thing.

Regards Jon Priluck
*   Jonathan Aerospace Materials Corp., 41 Naples Road, Brookline MA 02146  *
*            Tel (617) 731-3637, Internet:  jamcorp at           *
*     Developers and future manufacturers of Lattice Block Materials ...    *
*                the world's strongest and lightest materials.              *

------ Internet Message Header Follows ------
Newsgroups: bionet.general,,sci.research
From: jamcorp at (Jonathan Priluck)
Subject: Re: Ethics in research question
Message-ID: <CBzJEH.1yo at>
Organization: The World Public Access UNIX, Brookline, MA
References: <24u47k$7nu at> <CBz4zG.830 at>
<1993Aug18.173737.15741 at>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1993 02:39:51 GMT
Lines: 88

More information about the Bioforum mailing list