Blue LED Inventor Gets His Millions

from the hasn't-settled-much,-however... dept

The story of how the inventor of the very useful blue LED only got $200 for the invention from the company that employed him (and told him to stop working on the project, which he disobeyed) has been told plenty of times before. It raises plenty of questions concerning the way patents work for people within companies. Many companies claim they own any patentable technology you work on while employed at that company, but sometimes this goes beyond what’s reasonable. Now, however, the company in question, Nichia, has agreed to settle and pay the guy $8.1 million. It appears that this is just the latest in a string of similar “settlements” or court judgments forcing companies to pay out more to inventors of various successful technologies. While it does raise some questions about idea ownership and patents — you do have to wonder. If the employee knew what the contractual relationship with his company was, then why should they be able to go back later and demand more money? Shouldn’t they have negotiated patent ownership rights upfront?

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Comments on “Blue LED Inventor Gets His Millions”

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Precision Blogger (user link) says:

Re: patent rights

Everyone should think carefully about the terms of their employment. I always go through contracts carefully. I know that in return for carrrying the risk of employing me, I’m giving away patent rights.

If I ever felt that I was close to inventing something of really great value, I would try to negotiate an appropriate bonus or revenue stream while I had the advantage, and I might get something.

People have a sense of “fair play”, which may always aid the inventor of something really big, in court.

What ever happened to the $17,000 a year engineer at Gillette, who skunk-worked the dual blade and invented it just in time before Gillette launched its “scrub blade” razor that would have made them a laughing stock?

The dual blade razor showed up just in time for Gillette to cancel the scrub razor. Initially their ads for the dual blade were incredibly simple – a talking head – because they had had no time to plan an ad campaign.

At the time it was “common knowledge” that the inventor got a small bonus and no promotion.

– The Precision Blogger

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