Wednesday, June 30, 2004

LAW - Your Boss Does Own Your Brain

Back in the winter of 2002, I published an article in the John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law entitled "Does Your Boss Own Your Brain? - A Casenote on Alcatel v. Evan Brown." The gist of the piece was that a Texas trial court got it wrong when it held that Evan Brown's employer, DSC Communications (later known as Alcatel) owned the rights to an idea for a piece of computer software that Brown had developed.

The facts of the case showed that Brown had worked on this idea since he was in college, and that he came up with the final pieces of the puzzle while working for DSC. The court held that the program belonged to DSC under a contract that gave the company ownership over inventions that Brown developed in the course of his employment.

The appeals court affirmed the decision. It's clear from reading it that the court didn't really address the issues at all. Despite prior decisions ruling that continued at will employment cannot constitute consideration for an employment agreement (DSC made Brown sign the invention disclosure contract or else it would fire him), the court decided that the company's at will employment of Brown for the next 10 years created a unilateral contract that bound Brown to the terms of the agreement. The court also apparently ignored the fact that the agreement did not adequately define what an "invention" was and that Brown's "solution," as he called it, didn't work yet. Don't know if Brown is planning to seek certiorari to the Texas Supreme Court or not, but if he does, I wish him well.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya Jim, Bryan M. from Columbia here. Glad to see things are getting along well for you. I'm currently immured in a self-imposed hermit's lifestyle preparing for graduate school. I haven't seen the Gang in quite some time.

You can contact me at bluemagister at/over/under/inside gmail dawt com.

Take care, Jim.

1:17 AM  
Blogger Jim Lai said...

Following up on this, my article was cited on Slashdot's Your Rights Online website. I was also interviewed by Salon.com's Jeff Nachtigal for an article entitled "We Own What You Think."

11:10 AM  
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10:40 AM  

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