My employer requires employees to submit patent applications for the things they work on. My manager has identified my project as one that needs a patent, but I strongly disagree that the project qualifies in any way. I'm being asked to submit a patent application that is clearly frivolous. I'm pretty sure the application will be rejected, but I've seen other applications accepted that shocked me. I have, so far, refused to create the application. My employer is of course free to submit the application themselves, but I want no part of the process, or any patents granted. Can my employer retaliate for my refusal to participate in their patent trolling?

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3 Answers 3


Can my employer retaliate for my refusal to participate in their patent trolling?


For example, you might get a poorer raise, due to some generic reason which never mentions your refusal to participate in patent applications.

Or you could be reassigned to lesser projects that won't end up in a patent.

Or in extreme cases you could be fired. The reason given may or may not directly indicate something about patents.

Clearly there are direct and indirect ways that your company could make work more difficult for you. You get to decide if this is the hill you want to die on, or not. And you get to decide if this is the kind of company where you wish to work, or not.

  • I see your point, and agree with it. My question is more along the lines of would it be legal to retaliate if I felt my employer could use these patents for patent trolling. My employer could relegate me to the basements for objecting to blatant racism too, and I'd have a hard time proving it, but that would be illegal. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 17:39
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    The big difference: racism at work is illegal. Patent trolling is not. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 18:27

Yes they can, and it should not surprise you.

Unless you are a patent lawyer you have no real knowledge of whether a patent is likely to succeed or not. Patent trollery is not only legal but established practice in the US, regrettably. While it is OK to express your objection to it, if the company does not listen to your objection then not cooperating would amount to failing to do your job. If you don't do your job the company is within it's rights to fire you with cause.

I am not a lawyer so I would strongly recommend consulting one if you are intending to make a real stand.


Yes, they can.

Refusing work assignments in the scope of your work is justified grounds for firing in pretty much every circumstance.

If you don’t want to participate, you will have to not continue to suckle money from their teat.

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