Individual Inventors, Corporate Owners

By Dennis Crouch:

Professor Orly Lobel has an excellent Op-Ed in today’s New York Times titled “My Ideas, My Boss’s Property” that highlights her work on how non-compete agreements stifle performance. This work follows the work of AnnaLee Saxenian who’s 1994 book explained why Boston fell behind Silicon Valley in the tech race. Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. Saxenian’s 2006 book takes a further step and further explores how “brain circulation” is a key to regional success. See, The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in the Global Economy.

23 thoughts on “Individual Inventors, Corporate Owners

  1. She should be very pro-patent. I read the article and I am not convinced she understands this very well. I experienced working in Boston during the fall behind time.

    The stronger patent law the easier it is to not have employment agreements mainly because of disclosure.

  2. I commented on this a few days ago but it seems to have been the impetus for the Op-Ed and I’m glad more attention is being paid to it.

    The big story in Silicon Valley these days is a class-action lawsuit alleging that several major tech companies, including Google and Apple, agreed not to try to hire away one another’s employees — thereby hindering workers from seeking out better-paying jobs.

    As far as I can tell from the facts that have leaked out thus far, this was just a blatant violation of antitrust laws. All the companies involved deserve to get hammered.

    Moreover, unlike other high-patenting countries like Germany, Finland, Japan and China, which require businesses to pay the inventor who assigns an invention to them, American intellectual property law lacks any requirements that employers compensate employees for the fruits of their creative labors above their regular salary.

    Given their endless whining about the “little guys”, it’s interesting that the patent teabaggers have not advocated more strongly for enacting similar laws in the US. Anybody have any thoughts as to why this might be the case? Does it run counter to their faux-libertarian “principles”?

    1. Blatant violation of the antitrust laws?

      MM, what case that supports your view here. Curt Flood comes to mind. Is that it?

      1. It’s just quintessential wage fixing. Concerted actions by a bunch of companies for the purpose (admitted in the emails of the companies) of restraining the ability of their employees to obtain the higher wages those employees otherwise would have received had the companies not colluded with each other.

        Here’s the write-up I saw earlier.

        link to pando.com

        Pretty good summary of the law here in this article about the behavior of another notoriously disgusting entity, the NCAA.

        link to papers.ssrn.com

        1. MM, all I see evidence of is an agreement among companies not to engage in cold-calling.

          Any employee is free to look for employment elsewhere and to jump ship. California has a statute on point that permits this.

          Cold calling and hiring away critical employees of a competitor is a method of unfair competition under California law. It can cripple a competitor.

          Then, there are the matter of trades secrets where the reason someone is called is because they have critical information of the employer.

          Driving up employee salaries is another way to hurt a targeted employer.

          Again, nothing prevents an employee from looking at internet BB’s and responding to adds. This really is not a wage-fixing agreement among direct competitors.

    2. I commented on this a few days ago but it seems to have been the impetus for the Op-Ed and I’m glad more attention is being paid to it…. this was just a blatant violation of antitrust laws

      What a bunch of B$.

      The thread was link to patentlyo.com the comment was 15.

      Malcolm is a legend in his own mind.

      1. Malcolm is a legend in his own mind.

        Not at all. It was all over the news — the news that appears to have been the impetus for the Op-Ed (hence the lead-in paragraph).

        1. LOL – you missed the point pertaining to you being a legend in your own mind.

          Further, your past comment was a meaningless QQ and you used it as a mindless attack on the patent system.

    3. Even when you try to add something meaningful to the discussion, perhaps out of weariness or regret with the universal disrespect your agitprop engenders, you continue to alienate people with your apparently innate obnoxiousness, soliciting comments by those to whom you endearingly refer as “patent teabaggers” with “faux-libertarian principles”.

      Your stuff is invariably worthless, except as an example of how the bitter mind of a disappointed old man runs.

      1. MM’s post are hard hitting and a good read. He could tone it down a bit, but I for one would be a bit bored.

        Still, teabaggers is getting a bit old. Besides, grouping tort lawyers with the bible-thumpers (who seem more ignorant that devious) doesn’t sound right. Tour why don’t you suggest something that evokes an unethical, snake in the grass, bottom, feeding patent prosecutor/litigator and/or their corporate sponsors, fellow travelers, sycophants, and other such bootlicking curs who elevate personal wealth and pleasure above the public good and who have no empathy at all for their victims.

        1. MM’s post are hard hitting and a good read.

          Put that bottle away Ned.

          How can anything without substance be ‘hard?’

    4. How bizarre that you call us libertarian and tea baggers when, of course, your views are libertarian and a tea bagger. Weird. It makes you look absurd MM to call other libertarian in a derisive manner when a strong patent system is certainly not libertarian. And even weirder to call tea baggers when a tea bagger would be against patents.

    5. Given their endless whining about the “little guys”, it’s interesting that the patent teabaggers have not advocated more strongly for enacting similar laws in the US. Anybody have any thoughts as to why this might be the case? Does it run counter to their faux-libertarian “principles”?

      Precisely what in the Tea Party movement would lead you to believe that they would favor a federal law trumping a contract between an individual and his/her employer?

  3. There is no doubt that one of the reasons bright people want to work in Silicon Valley as opposed to other states is the statutory law that voids agreements limiting an employee’s right to work for a competitor and which limits employer’s right to require an assignment of patents.

    Still, I perceived a hole in the law given the wholesale copying of Apple’s iPhone look and feel by Google. I think look and feel is artistic in nature, albeit, also functional. Steve Jobs was as much as an artist as he was a technical innovator.

    Design patents are not enough. Neither are patents. Copyright is the way to go, but I think this might be hamstrung by that case involving Lotus 123 that went to the Supreme Court in the ’90s. Lotus Development Corp. v. Borland Intern., Inc., 49 F.3d 807 (1st Cir. 1995).

    link to scholar.google.com

    1. Copyright Ned?

      Do you realize just how thin protection under copyright is?

      A question that you have never answered: how do you copyright “the use of a machine?”

      Do you see what happens when you run away and refuse to put things on the record? All those holes in your position keep showing up.

        1. Not always – as there are plenty of Fair Use defenses, as well as the possibility of independent development.

          The number of times a “pure copier” is involved is minuscule (outside of the criminal copyists of entertainment items)

      1. Do you realize just how thin protection under copyright is?

        Micromental protection for micromental innovation seems perfectly appropriate.

    1. Ah, but Columbus’s ships were new because they were guided by the Map (rescued from the taken Constantinople) and were used to make the discovery of India … or something like that.

      And, BTW, what did the inhabits of the Americas call themselves prior to America being discovered?

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