I would like to ask about the professional, polite, and conservative way of making sure that my rights are preserved in my current situation. I've been doing a paid internship over the summer that is coming to a close. It turned out to be quite successful as I have come up with a method that the company wants to patent.

My supervisor has asked me to set my end-date to 5 days after my last official day (as originally determined by the contract) to wrap-up my work.

Now I have two questions:

  1. Should I ask them if they are going to pay me for those 5 extra days for which I don't have a contract? Given that they might think it obvious and be insulted by my suggestion that they wouldn't if I ask, what is the best way to ask this?
  2. Should I ask them to put my name in the patent as well? If yes, what is a polite way for doing so? Again, I don't want to insult them by asking if they already think it's obvious to do so.

One more thing to consider is that they will almost surely offer me a position after my upcoming graduation, which I might consider accepting. So, there may exist some future cooperation that I want to take into consideration.

  • Is it a paid internship? – thursdaysgeek Aug 31 '15 at 23:14
  • Yes! it is a paid internship. – Alt Aug 31 '15 at 23:15
  • Confirm if it's a formal extension to your contract for five days. – Jane S Sep 1 '15 at 1:46
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    Welcome to the site @Alt. Your question was well-formatted but I've taken the liberty of editing it to clean up some grammar and remove some of the "fluff" as we prefer questions to just contain text relevant to the question. – Lilienthal Sep 1 '15 at 12:19

Instead of directly asking about the pay (which, yeah, might seem kind of odd to them), ask about the contract: "Happy to stick around another week; how do we go about updating the contract?". Since you came in with a contract, it's reasonable to expect to be governed by one for this extra extension.

As for the patent, that depends on how your employer usually handles those and what (if anything) is in your contract about this. You might be listed as inventor but have to assign all rights to your employer, for example, if your employment was "work for hire". Or the company might share ownership. If you don't know what's normally done at this company, your opening is to ask: "By the way, I know we're filing a patent for (project) -- do I get to be part of that? How does that work?"

In both cases I'm describing an informal conversation with your supervisor. This shouldn't be the only thing that happens (things need to get written down), but it's your opening to the conversation. You're all on good terms, and starting with an informal verbal query fits in well with that.

  • I was always a full time regular employee, but my name is on every US patent I was involved in inventing. Each patent application listed all the individual inventors. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 1 '15 at 21:22
  • @PatriciaShanahan interesting. At the places I've worked the company ended up owning the patents. I've never had a patent so I don't know what goes on behind the scenes there. – Monica Cellio Sep 1 '15 at 21:26
  • The company can, and often does, own the patent as assignee. That does not make it an inventor. For example Cage for dynamic attach testing of I/O boards. The inventors were all employees of Sun Microsystems, and the patent was assigned to Sun. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 1 '15 at 21:42
  • @PatriciaShanahan oh, I see now! Thanks. I've made an edit. – Monica Cellio Sep 1 '15 at 22:32

I suggest asking "What will my pay rate be for the extra days?".

If you are a/the inventor of the method being patented, your name should be on the patent, even if all your rights are being assigned to the employer.

I would expect an inventor assisting in preparing a patent application to be paid at a higher rate than a summer intern. Every time one of my employers filed a patent application for something I was involved in inventing, I received a bonus on top of my salary. However, you may choose to graciously accept continuing at your current rate, to help establish a good working relationship with a potential employer.

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    I'd agree with this - start with the assumption that you are getting paid (you should be, and I'd be very surprised if you weren't) and instead of asking "Will I be getting paid?" instead ask about how this will be formalized. As suggested, asking to be named on the patent should be reasonable - even if the rights are assigned to the employer, it's a great thing to be able to mention in interviews later! – Jon Story Sep 1 '15 at 11:51

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