Selling Your Soul To The Man

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From Out-Law.com, does that mean that they can suck your dreams out and steal the joy from your soul?

Telco owns ex-employee’s idea, says appeals court

05/08/2004

A Texas appeals court has ruled that telecoms giant Alcatel owns the rights to a former employee’s idea to convert old computer code into new languages, even though it existed only in his head at the time of his employment.

The case was brought in April 1997 by DSC Communications (subsequently acquired by Alcatel), against employee Evan Brown, who had never committed his thoughts to paper during his time with the company.

The company argued that Brown, who had been working with DSC for 10 years, withheld his idea for software, in spite of a contract requiring him to disclose any inventions he conceived or developed in the course of his employment. In the lawsuit, the company sought possession of Brown’s thoughts.

Brown had conceived a method for converting machine-executable binary code into high-level source code that he developed, he claimed, in his own time and not in the course of his employment.

He told his employers that he had an idea that he wanted to pursue with his employers’ support – but he did not reveal what it was. DSC demanded that Brown disclose the idea, claiming that it owned the thought, even if it was not expressed in any tangible form at the time. When Brown refused to disclose it, he was fired and sued.

In July 2002, five and a half years after the action was raised, Alcatel prevailed. The Texas district court reasoned that Brown’s employment contract was valid and enforceable. Therefore his thoughts, which were characterised as “invention” in the decision, should be disclosed to Alcatel. The judge also ordered Brown to pay Alcatel’s legal fees, which exceeded $330,000.

Brown appealed, claiming that his idea had not been completely “made or conceived” by that time and therefore the terms of the employment contract did not apply. He also argued that the contract violated public policy, was ambiguous and unconscionable.

On 28th June this year the Court of Appeal in Texas rejected all these arguments, and upheld the validity of the employment contract. Alcatel, said the court, “owns full legal right, title and interest to the process and/or method” that forms Brown’s idea.

Brown’s lawyer has now filed a motion seeking a rehearing of the appeal.

Dating Tips

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US mobile phone company Cingular has come up with an Escape-A-Date service. An example, from their press release:

Hey, this is your escape-a-date call. If you’re looking for an excuse, I got it. Just repeat after me, and you’ll be on your way! “Not again! Why does that always happen to you? … Alright, I’ll be right there.” Now tell ’em that your roommate got locked out, and you have to go let them in. Good luck!

Maybe this should be best aimed at people who find their loved ones online at Girls Behind Bars.

The Thumb Drive Gospel

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In the beginning there was memory, and it was called flash. It was small, expensive but convenient and the geeks saw that it was good.

What is a thumb drive?

Research done at Microsoft recently found that much of the time the most effective way of moving files around was via the sneakernet. Thumb drives are small pocket sized devices that have no moving parts and can store almost as much information as a CD-R. They use flash memory to hold the data and connect to a computer via a USB port. They generally can get on to all but the most locked-down computers and can be used to remove or transfer computer files. I use a 256MB Sony MicroVault

Why do I need a thumb drive?

Your work computer doesn’t have a CD writer and you want to move a presentation or work on it at home. You could run an FTP server and move the files electronically, but this could be hacked, is hard for a nebbish to set up and relies on your broadband service provider to not fall down at the wrong moment. Its cross platform, I can use mine on my Mac and PCs at work

Cover thy ass

A friend of mine recently ended up in court. The wrangle ended in their favour but it could have been avoided. At the time, redundancies were on the cards and they had developed a business plan in association with another friend regarding the possibility of setting up a new business. The time past and all that was left of the idea was a pipe dream on an spreadsheet that was stored on a network drive that had backed up their email account. Years later when their employer wanted to get rid of them, they used the file as evidence in a legal move to get them out the door. Anything like this, do on a removable drive if you have to use a work computer at all.

Out-Law Posse

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Masons are a large and respected legal firm. What on earth are they doing with a kick-ass website? Out-Law.com is their online presence, as well as a weekly news round up, a quarterly magazine and helpful guides they even have some cool online games in their fun section.

The site is a classic example of the way a website should interact with prospective customers rather than the starched-collar brochureware you see elsewhere in the legal sector.