Protection of postdoc's idea
cotegl at ncaur1.ncaur.gov
cotegl at ncaur1.ncaur.gov
Tue Jan 2 12:00:19 EST 1996
In article <4c77pb$3d2 at utopia.hacktic.nl>, nobody at REPLAY.COM says...
>I am a postdoc in a lab in academia. I have an idea for a project with
>considerable financial potential, but I want to make sure my advisor
>doesn't get all the money and glory. How can I insure that I am on any
>patents that come out of this and that I am financially compensated to
>It seems like us hard-working postdocs come up with the ideas, do the
>work, and the PI gets all the reward. I want to prevent this from
>happening. In fact, if possible, I'd prefer my boss didn't get any
>from this whatsoever, since I am very unhappy with the treatment I have
>been receiving from him.
I read your post on protecting your ideas, as well as Berezin's reply.
If you publish, he is correct, you will lose any patent rights.
Instead, write down your ideas in your own notebook, and have a neutral
third party (within your lab, if possible) whom you trust to co-sign and
date the entry. This will document the conception of the idea. In the
intellectual property arena, documentation is the key. Remember,
though, as a postdoc of Dr. Whomever, you do have some obligations to
him. Besides any legal, contractual obligations you may have as an
employee of your institution, you also owe him at least a chance. He has
taken a chance on you and given you an opportunity to be paid to practice
science. An idea is probably the most critical step in the invention
process, but not the only one. Reduction to practice is often the
hardest and most time-consuming aspect. Without the chance to make your
idea work, it is next to worthless. That is where your boss comes in.
He may have the experience to help you put the idea into practice, and
to turn it into a working invention. Don't assume your boss will steal
your ideas, but don't be too trusting, either. Document everything you
do, and get it signed and dated by a witness periodically. Make sure
someone you know and trust is aware of what you are doing, and if you
feel your boss is not giving you due credit, let him know. (Maybe he's
just dumb about working with other people; scientists are not famous for
their people skills. Never attribute to malice that which can be
explained by ignorance.) Alternatively, you could keep you ideas to
yourself until you can find a job situation where you feel more
comfortable about sharing them.
But be sure to document everything - lab experiments, notes from
meetings, letters to other investigators, etc. Trust is no substitute
for proof. And finally, if the idea really does turn out to be valuable,
a patent lawyer will probably become involved. Be sure he/she knows all
about the roles everyone played in the invention process. Someone who
merely supervised an inventor without contributing anything to the
creative process has no legal rights to inventorship, although ownership
of licensing rights is determined by your contract with the University.
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