We have a senior engineer on our team that routinely excels at his work. In addition to his regular work, our company has a patent program where engineers can write up a patent for a novel idea, and submit it to our patent team. Within about 6 months, the engineer will get anything in the range of $300 to $5000, depending on the value of the patent from the perspective of the patent team. This engineer has filed over 30 successful patents over the past 2 years, and all of these inventions are used in our products (and he's made about $110,000.00 from the patent disclosures alone).
The company has recently decided to dial back the benefits for this program, to a simple $100 "finder's fee" for a patent submission, and an additional $900 for a "good" patent. Since employees write these in their spare time, it doesn't surprise me that the number of applications has dropped from 2 per week to maybe 3 per quarter.
Our senior engineer has expressed concern with the company, as he can only make more money by being promoted (our bonus structure is based on length of stay, so employees have to be on board for at least 7 years to earn a decent bonus), and the only offices with openings for higher-level engineering positions would require him and his family to relocate (moving across the country). He's also noted that the decrease in patent-related bonuses hits him hard.
My problem: our senior engineer recently (before the change in benefits) demonstrated some very impressive technology that would speed up a certain process of ours. He also claimed to have written 5 patents associated with it. He's delivered impressive results in the past, so I doubt he was blowing smoke. After the reduction in benefits, he can't seem to recall the patents or find any of the code he used to create his demo. Since he did this all in spare time, it's not in violation of our data retention policies if he just did it all on his home laptop, provided he didn't copy company data to it.
I think he's getting ready to switch jobs, and we need the technical information/code he used to create the demo. His employment agreement states that any and all intellectual property he generates while employed with us, even during weekends/free-time, is the property of the company. IT has searched his OneDrive, laptop, etc., and we can't find a single shred of code/documentation on these ideas. I've tried offering a one-off bonus for him to just anonymously leave a thumb drive with the data on my desk after hours, but he just claims he "doesn't know what I'm talking about".
How can I resolve this?
I can offer a one-off bonus, and I can offer him a significant promotion (but it requires he move to a less desirable part of the country). I can't give him a raise in his current position, and members of senior management no longer trust him due to his "funny" behavior as of late (well has been poisoned a bit). He doesn't want to move at all, and even an offer of $25,000.00 for the IP didn't work, which would have been according to the "old rules". I think he's worried that by agreeing to such a deal, he's opening himself up to legal liability (it would involve indirectly admitting he was being dicey/dishonest about "not knowing what I'm talking about").