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Engineering Ethics, Patent and Legal Issues

The issue of Engineer Z failing to communicate with his employer about the legal implications of patent rights does not create favorable conditions for his efforts. According to United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp., an employee who has a contract that includes information about his or her rights to inventions related to one’s work has to follow these rules and transfer all the rights to the employer. In this case study, Engineer Z remembers signing a paper that most likely gave the company the right to use his inventions and ideas as its own. Thus, Engineer Z has to adhere to the contract. Moreover, he and the company did not enter into any written agreements that would allow him to confirm that the idea for the new project was his initially (Steensma et al. 2). Moreover, he also did not ask for any written confirmations of his official participation in the project’s development.

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Another legal basis for the company to protect itself is the case Agawam Company v. Jordan which states that the first person to perfect the patent and introduce it to the public has a right to claim it as his or her own. Therefore, the company’s decision to stop working with Engineer Z may be interpreted as an attempt to develop the project further and gain full rights to the patent. The obligations first outlined by the company in the contest were not documented as a legal deal between the engineer and the firm, which renders all their previous claims as unofficial and unreliable for Engineer Z to use. Furthermore, if the engineer’s position implies new inventions and creative work, then it is most probable that the company has a full right to use his designs and claim them as the business’ property. According to Gill v. United States, the employer who allocates funds for the worker’s invention or improvement has a full right to entitle him or herself and gain complete control over developing this project.

One of the companies that value innovation and allow its employees to create new ideas is Cisco (Parnell). This conglomerate frequently works with its employees and other startups to bring new ideas and projects to the business. The firm holds multinational contests and allows winning workers to participate in the project’s development. The focus on entrepreneurship brings Cisco many new ideas, and it continues to implement new small inventions into its global strategy successfully. Employees are given the rights to share their thoughts and feedback and be rewarded for their achievements in innovation.

New engineers should attentively examine their contracts with their companies and see whether they have some ability to protect themselves from being mistreated. It is necessary for every engineer to know and adhere to the Code of Ethics that discusses possible issues that may arise for employees during their work (“NSPE Code of Ethics”). Moreover, young workers should remember that their state can have specific rules protecting their rights. These local regulations may grant them more powers over their own inventions and give them a chance to win the legal battle for their patent. Otherwise, it is vital for engineers to always communicate with their employers and come to a legally binding agreement which would write out all rights of both sides. While in this case, Engineer Z relied solely on his own assumptions and the company’s unauthorized statements, one should remember that a definite agreement and mutual understanding should be reached prior to revealing or developing any major projects.

Works Cited

Agawam Company v. Jordan, 74 U.S. 583 (1868). Supreme Court of the United States. Web.

Gill v. United States, 160 U.S. 426 (1896). Supreme Court of the United States. Web.

“NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers.” National Society of Professional Engineers [NSPE], 2017. Web.

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Parnell, Brid Aine. “Lessons From Cisco and Airbus on How Startups Inspire Corporate Innovation.” Rocket Space. 2016. Web.

Steensma, H. Kevin, et al. “A Comparative Analysis of Patent Assertion Entities in Markets for Intellectual Property Rights.” Organization Science, vol. 27, no. 1, 2015, pp. 2-17.

United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp., 289 U.S. 178 (1933). Supreme Court of the United States. Web.

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