In IEEE-USA’s newest e-book, Intellectual Property and the Employee Engineer, author Orin E. Laney dedicates this updated, online version of his original book to entrepreneurs and innovators who use their ideas to start new companies, or entirely new industries. The purpose of this guide is to familiarize readers with personal intellectual property rights, and the associated issues that arise during employment—especially addressing the intellectual property rights of employed individuals. He includes a brief intellectual property tutorial, but this work does not address inventing and authoring specifically. Although many volumes already exist on these topics, few address the intellectual property rights of employed individuals.
Most engineers and scientists employed in design, research, or other similar jobs that rely on creativity will benefit from this material. Artists, videographers, performers, and others in the wider creative community will also find useful content. Additionally, employees in countries other than the United States may also benefit–but they should research the laws of their own nations—the author does not consider them in this volume.
Laney begins with a brief primer on intellectual property (IP), and writes that four legislative IP forms are of particular importance—patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. He notes each form has its own universe concerning terminology and trade law.
Laws include mechanisms to protect, sell, and inherit intellectual property, much the same as for real/tangible property, Laney points out. Further, because no actual physical property exists to “possess,” what one may purchase or inherit is title to the property, including a legal right to exclude others from exploiting the IP rights. “For instance, patent infringement is analogous to trespassing on real estate,” he offers, as an example.
Laney explains the four legislative categories must require some type of formation. For instance, one must actually write a novel, or record it to claim copyright. “Copyright does not apply to a good tale merely carried about in one’s head,” he writes.
Similarly, Laney clarifies employers must protect trade secrets, by restricting them to appropriate personnel, and other demonstrable measures. In addition, he discloses the law grants trademarks for identifiers in active commercial use—and will not issue them for ideas stored for speculative future use. Additionally, Laney points out the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) only grants patents for inventions (machines, manufactured articles, processes, or compositions of matter)–not for what an inventor could, or might, create.
Other chapters in the book cover employment in the context of pre-assignment agreements, the implications of agreement terms, and employment strategies for creative individuals. Laney also includes useful appendices on the anatomy of pre-assignment agreements, state laws on assignment agreements, types of intellectual property, and non-competition agreements.
Professor Orin Laney is an IEEE member, a former chair of IEEE-USA’s Intellectual Property Committee, a licensed Professional Engineer in California, and a Certified Electromagnetic Compatibility Engineer. Over his career, he has studied intellectual property issues, as both employee and employer. Laney has written articles, and presented at hundreds of college campuses and corporate venues on intellectual property, career management, entrepreneurship, and similar topics.
From 1 June through 15 July, IEEE members can download a free copy of this e-book by going to: https://ieeeusa.org/shop/careers/ip-and-the-employee-engineer/
Log in with your IEEE Web Account, add the book to your cart, and use promo code JUNEFREE18 at checkout.
Georgia C. Stelluto is IEEE-USA’s Publishing Manager; Manager/Editor of IEEE-USA E-BOOKS; Co-Editor of IEEE-USA ConferenceBrief; and Department Editor of InFocus for IEEE-USA InSight.