Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Getting scooped in the same company

Like most corporations, we highly value innovation.  When I originally proposed my group idea to upper-management they weren’t interested until I mentioned that we could crank out a ton of patents without a lot of time-investment.  My group would be the grand creators.  They suddenly got on-board and it’s been a great decision because the four of us have been responsible for a plethora of live-saving products.  On top of that we get 10 patents to every 1 outside of the group.  The patents are cool because 1. I get a plaque, and 2. I get $4000 for every patent awarded.  Now, compensation in group goes like this: base salary, fringe (insurance, retirement matching, etc.), yearly bonus (~15% of base salary), independent awards (between $250 and $30000), patent bonuses (between $500 and $4000), miscellaneous bonuses (gym memberships, cell phone, etc.).  A lot of our yearly bonuses, independent awards, and patent bonuses rely on an internal competition.  If you separate yourself and rise above the others you get all the accolades and the $weet $weet cash money.  This breeds competition.

Because this breeds competition people steal ideas all the time.  Within our group the ideas are safe and we’re all on each other’s patents.  The group that takes the idea to a real working medical device gets the glory eventually but all the early glory heads to the people on the patents.  So each group keeps what they’re working on pretty secretive to keep other groups from getting ahold of it.  In grad school I remember doing the same thing.  But a little information would leak out or like minds would work on similar things and another group would publish.  In academics I kind of saw it as a good thing: it meant we were working on something important.  Though it also diminished the impact factor of our target journal.

In industry, my group has to present for the CEO or maybe a physician interested in our devices pretty frequently.  They, thinking it’s okay to share information within the same company (but not realizing the petty competition), share our device or idea.  Then the other group runs with it, submits an inferior patent, and they get it.  Lame. 

Our group recently got scooped by a group that we call “the nut sacks”…can’t remember how they got that name, but we do not have confidence in their abilities to create medical devices.  We traced the leak back to an intern I hired that leaked a small part of the product. The nut sacks aren’t even pursuing it as a device to prototype.  They’re just wanting to scoop us and patent-block.  Those of you thinking scooping doesn’t happen outside of the ivory tower: it’s here and in full force.  I thought for sure this wouldn't happen when leaving academia....you know.....common goals.  Time to just batten down the hatches.

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