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I worked for an industrial research lab, where there were only me and a manager in the project. It has been several months since I left, but I still have a couple of unfinished patent applications with them.

These patents are actually prepared by a law firm, who caused this delay. In the past, it often took 3 or 4 full working days, spreading over one or two weeks, to finish an application: the lawyer sent the draft, I gave feedback, they modified and sent again and so on.

Problem: now I'm working for a different company, and it's too stressful for me to do this review. I have a long commute by train that I need to leave home at 7:30 AM. I also have small kids, this alone already makes me very stress. I only have some free time after 9:30 PM, after my kids are in beds. But then, I just feel totally exhausted, and I find it very difficult to focus on anything.

My goal: I don't want to do this reviewing any more, but I still want to be listed as an inventor. If this sounds unreasonable, please note that these patents belong to the company and I have no right at all over them (I had to sign such a contract on my start day). So they should take more responsibility to finish those applications.

Back to my former manager, he was a more experienced researcher, with more research papers, patents, and even a book. However, he had not proposed any idea since I joined. The way he managed me was that every month, he would send me an email asking what I had been doing, often without any feedback. Then he would leave me alone until the next month to send that email again. We only talked 2 or 3 times a month, usually when I needed something.

Since I was working on the project that he won the grant, he was automatically a co-inventor in all my patents. However, he had never done any reviewing. He would wait until I finished my iterations of feedback, and then confirmed that everything was OK. Now, I would like to do exactly the same for the unfinished applications.

Current situation: the lawyer from the law firm sent the draft application last year, but they didn't realize that my email didn't work (as I already left). At that time, that former manager hadn't replied to him for a month (from the history of the forwarded email). At the beginning of January, someone from my former employer managed to trace me, and I replied that I would give feedback as soon as I could. On the same day, that manager also replied that he would send a feedback, and I thought that he might have just been back from a long vacation. However, it has been several weeks, and the lawyer already sent the reminder again, but neither the manager nor me bother to reply. It seems like he and I are playing a waiting game that who has more patience will win.

Question: how to tell this manager to do the reviewing instead of relying on me? That's the company's property, and he, as a currently employee, needs to have more responsibility with it.

  • Other than not replying to emails, are you currently doing anything for your former employer? Have you done sufficient work already to be listed as an inventor of the patent? – user1666620 Feb 3 at 10:56
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You assume you'd be listed as co-inventor if you did the review. That may well be the case but you no longer work for them, so, unless you're sure that's how it works, I recommend emailing HR and possibly legal at your former company to verify that.

It's unlikely your former manager will ever get to do the reviews. He has show no interest whatsoever and that will not change without pressure, which will be difficult to encourage.

That said, it might be time to cut your losses. The legal firm is the only one who can exert pressure on your former employer, because ignoring them means losing money. I recommend having them do the dirty work for you:

Hello (legal guy),
Unfortunately I am no longer with Company and do not have the time to look into this, much as I would like to. Please contact (unresponsive manager) or his boss, (the boss).

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Email your former manager, lawyers and whoever else is asking you to do this work without compensation and inform them you'll be happy to do so for consultancy fees.

Then forget about it and move on. You will not get anything other than a name on a piece of paper somewhere, so the question you have to ask yourself is how badly do you want that bragging right?

  • 1
    They ARE getting compensated. The compensation is the recognition and credit they will get for inventing a new product. – Jack Feb 3 at 12:28

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