Org Prep Daily

September 6, 2011

A taste of their own medicine

Filed under: industry life — milkshake @ 1:51 pm

 Credit: Jirí Slíva

I got an e-mail from a patent litigation attorney representing a major pharma company, a company that puts beautiful ads on TV almost every night and whose name rhymes with “Mergers and Massacres”. Turns out, they have a problem with one of their drugs: the drug is selling just over a billion a year and a key patent covering this drug is being challenged by two generic companies. And since I am on the patent (with ten other authors), the company lawyers were eager to prepare me in case I get subpoenaed by the other companies challenging the patent. They offered a free legal representation during the hearings and they proposed to pay me as a consultant (“at my usual rate”).

They mentioned that they are trying to piece together the exact timeline of the project – I suppose questions like who proposed/synthesized what and when are important to the defense. And they are having problems: just one person from the original team is currently employed with the company.

This does not surprise me. I was laid off like everyone else when our research site was closed. (Also, our chemistry director was forced out just before the site closure and I heard that the company has brought some heavy investigation down on him). In the end, only a handful of employees got re-hired by our company and moved to other research sites. I suppose tracking down the patent inventors and interviewing them is somewhat difficult now – and it is possible that not everyone wants to be interviewed…

I did not call the company’s patent lawyers as they urged me to but we had a cordial e-mail exchange and I shared some of the impressions and experiences that I had while being (briefly) a part of their company – from the time they acquired us until they shut us down. I also reminisced on the class-action lawsuit that my ex-colleagues brought against the company because the company tried to cut their severance payments after the layoff. (The class action suit was settled out of court when the company paid in full – about 2 years late.)

I also reached out to the two generic companies involved in this litigation and let them know about this approach from my former employer;  I offered to answer questions about the history of this drug discovery and I gave them names of the few key inventors on the patent who could perhaps assist them more than I can. Then I wrote back to the legal team of my former employer to inform them that I contacted the other two companies involved in the litigation. I explained that I do not want money but maybe they could re-evaluate how they are going to treat the R&D inventors in the future. You know, in case they need them again.

71 Comments »

  1. That’s a really sad story.

    Comment by Unstable Isotope — September 6, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  2. BTW, this post made the free market unicorn cry.

    Comment by Unstable Isotope — September 6, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    • Nope, it shows the power of the free market, since milkshake has the right to do what he did.

      Try that kind of honesty or whistleblowing in the federal government, and they’ll sic the Espionage Act on you.

      The strength of the free market isn’t that people don’t make mistakes; it’s that mistakes are eventually punished.

      Comment by John Thacker — September 8, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  3. Sweet justice.

    Revenge is a reaction best stirred at -78 C.

    Comment by Paul — September 6, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    • No I am not after a revenge. I just won’t take the marching orders now. It is worth mentioning that the small molecule drug costs pennies a dose to manufacture, it is typically used for life extension in very ill patients and the price tag is few hundreds USD for one pill a day – and most insurers cover only a fraction of the therapy because of its very high cost.

      The other thought I have is that 0.01% from the sales shared with the inventors, or about 0.001% per inventor, would have been enough to make them eager to defend the patent – even for a company that laid them off. Somehow it feels insufficient to hear “You did a terrific job back then so why don’t you help us to defend your patent now”, appreciation that comes a bit late and from a lawyer who perhaps bills every minute of his waking time to the company.

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

      • This is an amazing story an I greatly appreciate you sticking yourself out there to say it. It is important because people that scientists and researchers are pushing the corruption and exploitation that is escalating now, but in fact, these people and yourself are also victims to unaccountable corporate entities. I will be anxious to read more of your blog and see where you went after this career change. In tarot, every time I do a reading related to global situations “karma” keeps surfacing and this is becoming an era of retribution.

        Comment by tarotworldtour — September 7, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  4. It appears that a number of people on that patent have suffered through prolonged bouts of unemployment. Terrible.

    Comment by Chemjobber — September 6, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

    • It was not as hopeless in the Bay Area back then as it is now but few of my colleagues had serious difficulties finding a decent job. And the people like me who did not cash the stock options immediately lost them soon after because the post-merger stock tanked.

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  5. Sorry, Milkshake, but after your first reply stating it’s not about revenge…clearly it’s about revenge for you. You are bitter about what happened (rightfully so); but don’t try and disguise it anything more than it is – revenge (and a bit petty as well from your description about what happened, one-sided, I might add).

    Comment by CR — September 6, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    • No, it is not a revenge, I am not doing anything against them – I just don’t volunteer working for them. I offered to answer their questions and provide them the same information that I would give to their competitors – but I would prefer to do this Q and A in writing so that there is no room for reinterpretations like the one you just gave.

      Also there are several good reasons for being disillusioned with my ex-employer but my main objective here is to send a protest – about the way this company chooses to treat people who are fundamental to its business model. The timing seems perhaps churlish but it is the only opportunity when the management might pay attention to a lab drone like me.

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    • I think it is more about honesty and justice. Remember those concepts. More people need to get honesty and justice. Both qualities are in very short supply in Marin County, California. I cannot speak for the whole country…just what I know here, and then what we read. It does “appear” that honesty and justice are in very short supply in America. Maybe that’s why you didn’t recognize it.

      jay205

      Comment by Daley — September 8, 2011 @ 7:20 am

  6. Revenge? It just sounds like the quote from Batman Begins: “I’m not going to kill you… but i don’t have to save you either.”

    Comment by bad wolf — September 6, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

  7. Sir, you may want to look up the word – (Revenge is a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived). Your “harmful action” is not cooperating with a situation in which they are willing to pay your “usual rate”; so they are asking for your expertise in return for compensation. I understand your unwillingness to cooperate, and your “take a stand” attitude as some sort of protest for their business practices. BTW, good luck to you. I’m sure they are going to re-evaluate how they do business because of this, but you go on, sir. Seems to me it would be more prudent to ask some exorbitant amount of money as your “usual rate” and then let them make the decision whether they want your help.

    Handle it how you want, and post about it, but at least call a spade a spade.

    Comment by CR — September 6, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    • I am sure that you would be perfectly happy to ask for some exorbitant payoff and then take it but I can’t help you with that. With regards to change of corporate behavior, I don’t have much hope for this large company but it costs me nothing to be obstinate. And yes, I am enjoying it. And I hope that if more people can do this kind of protest – a protest with possible implications for the big pharma bottom line – perhaps there might be some improvement over the long run.

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    • Asking an exorbitant fee for the information Milkshake provided for free might be seen as revenge (or simply a come-uppance).
      In this event, no harm was done to the company: he simply provided free useful information to two litigating parties who went to court to (supposedly) ascertain the truth.

      Comment by Pedro Silva — September 7, 2011 @ 6:27 am

      • I sure hope you don’t think you can get at the truth in court. What a joke. Recently I realized that “Court” is just a business. Their product is sold to the highest bidder…..what a travesty that people believe that there is “justice” in a court. I have not seen it in 29 years. So sad. We just need to avoid the courts, or void the Judges. That a laugh! “Judges”….no, they’re a commodity….might as well securitize them and sell them on the sock-it-to-em
        stock market. You’d have a better odds there.

        Daley.

        Comment by Daley — September 8, 2011 @ 7:25 am

  8. Hey, more power to you. Just call it what it is…revenge.

    Comment by CR — September 6, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  9. @4 “It appears that a number of people on that patent have suffered through prolonged bouts of unemployment. Terrible.”

    But the point of protecting intellectual property by patents, rather than confidentiality, is to convert Labour to Capital. Once you’ve done that, in theory, any required Labour is fungible and hence cheaper.

    Comment by gyges01 (@gyges01) — September 6, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

    • yes, thats what some ex-MacDonald lawyer hotshot would tell you. But it turns out that scientists in the pharma industry do not conform to a stereotype of labor as a commodity: they do not function quite like interchangeable cogs in machinery that spits out blockbuster drugs on the assembly line while the management wisely plans out the most promising research directions and sets the production quotas. It actually takes few years to put together a good discovery gang that is motivated and competent, confident and content with their place in the organization, where the loyalty goes both ways and every group member has a personal stake in the success of the project, where the rivalries are discouraged and people are considerate and tolerant and trust each other. Lot of factors have to be just right for this to happen. And it is very easy to crush the spirit of a research group and undermine the motivation. How to best create a nonthreatening environment where everyone can be productive and work well together I am not completely sure but it certainly isn’t achieved through protracted layoffs, frequent reorganizations and outsourcing

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

  10. I hope you haven’t exposed yourself to charges of divulging trade secrets/confidential information by admitting to your former employer that you contacted the generics. Anyway, I supposed you probably could have gotten $400+/hr as a named inventor on the patent-in-suit. You certainly don’t owe them anything, but there’s a chance you could get subpoena’d and have to give the same testimony, but not be compensated in the same way

    Comment by will — September 6, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  11. Heavens forbid I should criticize, but let’s propose another scenario. You should eagerly agree to assist your former employers and volunteer to act as a technical adviser in the lawsuit, for a reasonable but hefty hourly fee plus expenses, of course. Not that anyone should give them that much credit, but if they had any working brain cells they ought to fall all over themselves to take you on. First, you know the invention and history better than anyone else. Second, by doing so, none of their current scientists need be taken away from their projects. Third, compared to all the attorneys fees being racked up your cost is minimal. Fourth, your current employer oughtn’t to object (unless they’re a counterparty) because this is a historical matter. Work nights and weekends, take vacation days to attend depositions – money for sitting around doing nothing! – be an eager beaver and you should make out like a bandit. Your only fear should be a settlement.

    Comment by Greg Hlatky — September 6, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

    • There is 10 more inventors, and some of them contributed a lot more than me and probably lost more too as a result of the site closure – and so I will let them have that consulting gig if they want it. Of course it would get a bit more interesting if any one of those original inventors made an arrangement with the generic competitors instead and we could watch the 3 companies duking it out… can you pass the popcorn please?

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

  12. It is not revenge to decline to cooperate with someone who has screwed you, even if you alternatively choose to cooperate instead with someone who has not. I don’t understand why the above poster is so fixated on the word. Anyway, I couldn’t help but chortle at the karmic suitability of the situation.

    Comment by opsomath — September 6, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

  13. I have little sympathy for big pharma but I have even less sympathy for the generic companies filing tons of nuisance lawsuits, desperately hoping one or two of them pay off after they get a stupid judge. Most of these cases I have heard much about are pretty flimsy on the side of the generics.

    Comment by partial agonist — September 6, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

    • I noticed that one of the generic companies went after a very popular selective vasodilatator from the big company and apparently the litigation got thrown out for lacking merit. So I don’t know if they are bottom-feeders or Robin Hoods and it does not really concern me because I am not taking sides…Any party that wins the fight is fine with me and I am opened to the highest bid (LOL).

      Comment by milkshake — September 6, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

  14. I applaud your courage, milkshake. What you did was simply serving justice in my eyes. Keep standing up for what you believe in!

    Comment by mevans86 — September 7, 2011 @ 1:07 am

  15. Briliant! Reading this made my day LOL

    Comment by tuky tuky — September 7, 2011 @ 6:01 am

  16. IANAC, but I applaud you for standing up for what you believe in, especially if your former colleagues had larger roles in creating the compound in question than you did. Perhaps you are more visible than they are, and easier to find. Best of luck, and hope all goes well in wherever your endeavors take you.

    Comment by K — September 7, 2011 @ 6:17 am

  17. If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? – “The Merchant of Venice”

    Comment by The Wavefunction — September 7, 2011 @ 7:49 am

  18. CR simply doesn’t understand English.

    Comment by Old Timer — September 7, 2011 @ 8:49 am

  19. Well done Milky, I would do the same.
    Well done

    Comment by Quintus — September 7, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  20. I think some people ACTUALLY can’t tell the difference between revenge and justice. It appears that the universe has not forgotten that justice is not a monopoly granted to governments to extract punitive actions against little people, but it’s the righting of wrongs of all things, large AND small by the same. Large companies that forget that it’s people and not money that make discoveries and advance the world commit an act of negligence against their customers and employees and when that irresponsibility costs someone their job then it’s only a matter of comeuppance… not revenge.

    Comment by Kyle F — September 7, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  21. I tip my hat to you, sir.

    Comment by anonymous — September 7, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  22. Inventorship is one of the more nebulous legal concepts. Any inventorship determination is highly fact dependent and small differences in the facts (or one’s recollection thereof) can change the conclusion dramatically. Not knowing anything about this case, I imagine that the Mergers attorneys were just being thorough when they contacted you. I’m sure they wish they hadn’t now.

    p.s. maybe I’m dense this morning, but I can’t make anything rhyme with mergers, except burgers….mmmm

    Comment by Patent-chemist — September 7, 2011 @ 11:57 am

  23. I have to agree with Milkshake on this one. It isn’t revenge, it’s just a teaching moment. Sometimes you just have to let people suffer the consequences of their actions, or they will never learn. Enthusiastically taking their money and helping them win their case would only show that large amounts of cash in the bank can solve any problems. This way they have the opportunity to learn that the people behind the inventions can be as important as the rights to the invention.

    Comment by mike — September 7, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  24. I don’t see this as revenge. IMO, it is simply acting in a principled manner while also noting the folly of the request to act in support of an entity that did not behave in a manner that fosters loyalty or values its inventors. I have experienced standing up to folly in bigcos, including trying to advance drugs by dismissing data that point to significant risk. When standing on principle, it is common for the other side to undermine the principled stance by attacking the motivation and ethics of the individual. The principled individual only brings more harm by countering those arguments. Enough already. Other good people need to stand up and be accountable. I say job well done Milkshake.

    Comment by Cellbio — September 7, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  25. Old Timer…I understand English quite well…better than Milkshake can write it, for sure.

    However, no matter what anybody states, this is revenge even though he (and others) don’t want to admit it. Read the post at 3:09 pm. to understand the state of the posters views (classic revenge attitude – they wronged me, so I’m going to do the same). Heck, read “In the Pipleline”…what is best served cold?

    Cellbio…how is this acting in a principled manner? The work was done while employed by said company and now they would like the inventor to follow up on their invention. How is not helping them principled? So if someone invents something for a company they can never be let go? That companies must be loyal to their inventors regardless of business decisions?

    I understand the logic (and bitterness), and realize this is a lovefest when it comes to bashing former employers, but it is what it is….

    But, carry on, ignore and (pointlessly) refute the revenge aspect…

    Comment by CR — September 7, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  26. Cr, if still employed by said company, the principled approach would be to help. Since terminated, and no longer working for the company, and further, not respecting the company’s treatment of former workers, I see it as adhering to principles of fairness and decency. yes you can let an inventor go, and you can, within the limits of the law, treat them like dirt, but that can also come at a cost of good will. Strikes me as parallel to political extremists who feel freedom of speech should preclude negative consequences for the content of their speech just because they have the right to say something inflammatory. But, that being said, I know I fall far onto the side of adherence to higher moral principles over social obligations like loyalty to a former employer. probably the reason I am unemployed!

    Comment by Cellbio — September 7, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  27. Most of the comments are somewhat divergent. The OPost presented a fairly benign and concise description of steps that are arguably the result of a personal application of ethics and sense of justice in the legal proceeding described.

    Some may call “revenge” in perceiving the appearance of the potential for a conflict of interest in applying an abstract set of values in a situation involving an antagonistic former employer. To them, I say “prove it”. Only milkshake holds the true motive, and I’d be more inclined to support “justice”….

    Comment by Ed — September 7, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  28. I too think this is a principled stance and I applaud you for taking it. In your own way you may show companies that treating employees like people and not like disposable drones might *gasp* benefit everyone in the long run (as if business is interested in long term thinking anymore). Feeling a little schadenfreude while watching them try to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves does not constitute revenge.

    Comment by Honclbrif — September 7, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

  29. “The legal team from my ex-employer has been having some difficulty with piecing together the exact timeline of the project: questions like who proposed/synthesized what and when.”

    A very good reason for the company to enforce strict record-keeping schedules. And for the company to have a clause in the employment contract that would penalise an employee (even if former) for any errors in record keeping.

    Comment by NoName — September 7, 2011 @ 8:52 pm

  30. >> I think some people ACTUALLY can’t tell the difference between revenge and justice.

    I think an act of revenge can easily be viewed as granting justice…e.g., if a woman raped and murdered your father, and then you killed the woman, her murder would have been an act of revenge that also administered (a somewhat perverted form of) justice.

    IMO, not just being uncooperative with the lawyers but also contacting the opposing parties in the lawsuit was an act of revenge, but a tame (and just) one.

    Comment by Paul — September 7, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  31. @18–CR simply never believes anyone is wrong but him. He can, and will, continue arguing semantics here, In the Pipeline, and whereever right-minded people congregate. To tell them how much better he is.

    Comment by bad wolf — September 7, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

  32. Milkshake, this was a good lesson for them. Treating people like disposables is bad for business.

    Comment by Whiskymaker — September 8, 2011 @ 12:56 am

  33. Bravo to Milkshake for having a pair. Seems like a number of posters here have that condition seen on TV known as “Low T.”

    Comment by MIMD — September 8, 2011 @ 5:55 am

  34. Sorry bad wolf, just calling a spade a spade, no matter what other people want to wrap it up as. Semantics or not. I didn’t bring up the “revenge” aspect, just replied to the posters explanation.

    To the “In the Pipeline” comment: I can only assume you are referring to the “grad students are slaves” comments that I have commented on (as I don’t comment very often). Simply put, grad students are not “slaves” or “domestic abuse victims” (as someone else inferred). I don’t see that as semantics, but you go ahead and believe it to be.

    Comment by CR — September 8, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  35. Hi Milkshake, I have a question for you as a guy with some industry experience – and with your name on several patents. I have an opportunity to do some contract work for a tiny start-up company. They basically are looking to produce a product that does “X,” have a vague idea of what components they want to use and how they want it to work, and want me to come up with the chemistry to make it happen.

    They are offering me a small share of the royalties for their product, assuming that they will be successful in registering the brand and patenting the technology, as my pay. I have my doubts about the success of the product in the long run: the appeal for me is to be able to get my name on a patent and to successfully complete a research project for industry.

    My question is this: is 2.5% of profits on the brand a typical offer for something like this? I am just out of grad school and I don’t have a lot of experience with industry to be able to judge.

    Comment by opsomath — September 8, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    • 2.5% sounds good but it depends on the product – with stuff like Viagra you will do fine even with 0.1%. If you can, try to have your royalties defined as a percentage from sales of the product – it is a much more direct definition and your cut is not affected by company’s expenditures on advert campaigns, equipment modernisation or a new Learjet for the CEO. Consider the possibility that you are wildly successful – there is a chance that the company lawyers (or the lawyers for the new company owner) will try to weasel out of paying you too much in the future and since they are writing the contract maybe they left few loopholes in it for future use – so you should show your contract to someone who specializes in IP law and business contracts before you sign it. Don’t be too difficult and don’t take too much time thinking about it but you should not be a complete pushover either.

      Getting patents is important but they are usually not as impressive as publications, everyone in the industry has them. The industry collaboration if you were a semi-independent inventor will look good on your resume and make a fine story for a job interview – the employers are looking for “self-starters”, professionals who can solve problems on their own

      Comment by milkshake — September 8, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  36. You should get the companies in a bidding war for your testimony – it seems that the important facts related to *when* discoveries were made, looks like a priority claim fight, it’ll probably be dependent on notebooks and they’re looking for someone to lay a foundation. I’d figure out a flat fee, say $100,000, over an hourly rate, as it won’t take too much time to establish a fact in court, maybe 3 hours. Even at $1000/hr, that’s still chicken feed.

    Comment by streamfortyseven — September 8, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

  37. Oh dear, company treats people like poop and now has the cheek to come back asking for help. Not even a crawling apology. I don’t think the company could afford my hourly rate – even if they did, they would have to treat me as a hostile witness ! Perhaps Milkshake might suffer from a case of CEO-itis – you know – ummm I don’t recall to every question !

    Comment by TMoney — September 8, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  38. CR sounds like a lawyer for the pharma company in question: get milkshake to say that this is all about revenge then they can use that to refute any testimony that milkshake could give in court as a lie, or at least biased towards the company, if that information reflects negatively on their case. It is about truth and fairness, that is why he offered the same deal to the opposing side. CR even has the arrogance of a lawyer: “I understand English quite well…better than Milkshake can write it, for sure”. Yes, your English is terrific, you just need to learn how to post in a forum, it took you three times to say that you think it is revenge (posts #5, 7 and 8).

    Comment by JR978 — September 8, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  39. I don’t really want to touch the whole revenge aspect, but I don’t see him either going out of his way to actively harm his ex-employer, or harm it through inaction. Actually, I don’t even know if Milkshake is male or female, but I’ll assume male since everyone else apparently has. As I see it, Milkshake did not actually refuse his ex-employer. He informed them that he had also offered to consult with the generic companies. But at no point do I see that he refused to answer questions, only that he was not interested in money.

    Now, I know most of my law from TV and movies, so please don’t flame me if I’m totally off the mark here. But my understanding is that both sides are supposed to have free access to all evidence gathered and testimonies given. The generic companies had every right to contact Milkshake should they choose to. Even if they hadn’t, they would have had the right to cross-examine him. And after he had testified, they have the right to interview him themselves, ask him questions, then call him back to the witness stand.

    I suppose that one could perhaps accuse Milkshake of presumption in contacting the generic companies. But I don’t particularly see revenge here. Revenge would be to activly go out of your way to screw over the company (whether or not that’s a good or right thing to do is a completely separate debate, though my opinion is that if they aren’t giving you a paycheck, you owe them nothing). Here, he is perhaps going out of his way to make things a little bit tougher- but it’s something that likely would have ended up happening anyway if the generic companies had reasonably intelligent lawyers (which one would assume they would in this case). In which case, all he is really doing is hastening the time of the trouble, rather than creating it. One could even view that as beneficial to both sides, so they both have more time to prepare for the eventuality of his testimony. Revenge would have been to contact the generic companies and *not* inform his ex-employer, I think.

    That said, I would have taken schadenfreude from the experience. But I’m also poor enough that I likely would have gone the much less elegant route of charging my ex-company a ridiculous amount per minute, including travel time and expenses and such. And perhaps even accidentally been caught in traffic along the way, etc.

    Comment by Brok — September 8, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

  40. It is a poor policy not to put the inventor on the patent and pay royalties, almost as poor as writing patents for which there is no royalty in it for you, wish people weren’t quite so willing to do that kind of thing.

    Comment by SO — September 8, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  41. So, we are talking about sunitinib and Pfizer, right? What could be the problems with its discovery? It seems fairly aboveboard.

    Comment by TSC — September 8, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    • If I wanted to name the names I would have done so already – I think it is better not to. But anyone is free to make a guess.

      Also, I don’t know the specifics of this particular patent challenge because I was not briefed on it from anyone, all I know is names of the two companies. Generally speaking, a company that attacks someone else’s patent estate will usually try several approaches at once (hoping that something eventually sticks). For example, they can try to prove that there was a prior art that invalidates key claims, or that something with the patent was done improperly on purpose (such as, an essential aspect of the invention was witheld from the patent office with the intention to deceive). And so on. The details matter even if everything was seemingly done by the book. A litigation team defending a patent family does not like surprises; they should interview everyone involved – even more so when the drug is highly profitable, its discovery history traces back two decades, the institutional memory was lost through series of mergers and layoffs and some inventors have been alienated.

      Comment by milkshake — September 8, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

  42. Hey, Milkshake, I feel your pain, I have had the same type of request from a former employer, and I expect after all of the layoffs during the past decade there are many, many individuals who also have or will have this type of request from a former employer.

    However, if any of the “useful” information that you provided to the generic companies could be considered to be confidential information owned by your former employer, you may become targeted by your former employer and be charged with legal action. They will seek revenge on you! …or will they simply consider it to be “justice”?

    Anyway, it’s nice to see your approach to this issue. Good luck to you.

    Comment by Good Luck — September 8, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

    • I don’t think pointing out the names of 3 most important inventors is a breach of confidentiality – the names are on the patent and the patent got published almost a decade ago. And it is not my fault if some other inventor perhaps turns out to be unsympathetic to our ex-employer and choses to make a deal with the competiton instead…

      Comment by milkshake — September 8, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  43. I am just debating with myself if i would ever like to have you as my colleague/employee. Everything is either black or white without any shades of grey through your looking glass.

    Comment by sks — September 8, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

    • when the employer demands loyalty from me but gives none of it back, my scope lets through only shades of red

      Comment by milkshake — September 9, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  44. @JR978:

    Wow, how did my cover get blown? Amazing detective work on your part. I am, in fact, a big-time (and rich) lawyer from “Mergers and Massacres” and have nothing better to do than call out Milkshake for his revenge hoping (please, please) this will somehow discredit him. And here I thought I was being so careful as to not get ‘outed’ – well, bravo JR978, job well done. Sherlock Holmes has nothing on you, sir (or madam).

    SInce you’ve blown my cover, I guess I’ll tell you what I’m not. I’m not a medicinal chemist with 10 years experience in the pharma industry, that just so happened to go through a nearly identical situation that Milkshake describes. I certainly did not work for a smaller Pharma company that decided out of the blue to disband all of their discovery efforts with no warning or compassion for their employees – to only come back several years later to ask for the inventors’ help as they were getting ready to sell some assets to another Pharma company. Although the ‘divorce’ was not pleasant, all inventors (only 3 on this patent) all helped because that was work we performed while employed/compensated – regardless of what happened afterward. That is what I’m not, thank goodness.

    What’s that you ask? How do I sleep at night being a big-time (and rich, did I mention that?) lawyer screwing over the little Milkshakes of the world working for “Mergers and Massacres”? Easy, on top of a huge pile of money, with lots of beautiful girls.

    Oh, and you have a warped sense of the world if you really believe it’s about “truth and fairness, that is why he offered the same deal to the opposing side”. Unless Milkshake is leaving out the part of the story where he also worked for the other companies, of course.

    Comment by CR — September 9, 2011 @ 8:57 am

    • “…Worked for…” past tense. Implying this obligates him to continue to serve the company (that treated him and many others like crap, evidently).

      You sound like a tool.

      Comment by deadender — September 9, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

    • Loyalty must run in both directions. Mergers & Massacres decided that many of its people (including those who had contributed to a highly profitable product) were disposable, then tried to cut their severances. Milkshake owes them nothing. He has done precisely the right thing: give both sides of a dispute information which may allow the courts to resolve it equitably.

      He did nothing to harm his former employer. I think he’s taken the high road here.

      Comment by WM — September 10, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  45. I am so totally with Milkshake here, it’s not funny.

    No, I never worked for “Big Pharma” (or any pharma, for that matter), but I did work for a reasonably large aeronautics firm for something like 15 years.

    My last major contribution to that company was to rescue a high-profile product from being cancelled by the FAA, (we had received the “30-day letter”). Six months later – when I was removed from the project by a manager who didn’t like intelligent subordinates – the project had been fully reinstated, and my efforts had already put sixteen million dollars – cold, hard cash – in the companies bank account, with millions in follow-on orders in the pipeline.

    My reward for days and nights of hard work? The “gold watch” I received for my 15th anniversary with the company was a pink-slip. (with about 1/3 of the rest of the company too.)

    Maybe I am being bitter here – very likely so – but it seems to me that if *I* were a company with *any* sense of scruples – and someone had taken a high-profile project that was six inches from the dumpster, (and the loss of which would have damaged the companies reputation immeasurably), and within six months had turned it into almost 20 million smackers – with more like that waiting! – I would be tempted to give this guy the Royal Treatment, rather than sticking it up his Royal Arse. But then again, maybe the phrase “company with [a] sense of scruples” is an oxymoron in this day and age.

    Frankly, I think arguing over whether it is “justice” or “revenge” here is pointless. They shafted him big-time, then expected him to lick their feet when the fat was in the fire. . . . And he told ‘em that he just liked the smell of fried fat.

    Serve’s ‘em right.

    What say ye?

    Jim (JR)

    Comment by Jim (JR) — September 9, 2011 @ 11:53 pm

    • Indeed, some argue that insofar corporations are people they are psychopaths. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0120-03.htm

      Comment by TSC — September 10, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

    • I used to feel like that, thinking to myself – Hey! I changed the solvent and increased yield by 20%, putting an extra $1.5M in the company pocket! They owe me! – but now I’ve come to learn that upper management thinks I’m just doing the job I’m already paid to do. It’s not like the secretary claims millions in profits each time she opens the mail and gets a PO. The company puts you in a position to do these things, and removes you from it just as easily.

      Comment by indchem — September 12, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

      • IMHO, there may be a qualitative difference here.

        In my case, “Resurrecting the Dead” was not a part of my job description, nor that of my colleagues. If we were able to get a normally functioning product out the door, they were thrilled.

        Also it wasn’t as simple as a mere improvement to process. In this case the company would have not only lost a significant source of income in and of itself. The fact that a major project was cancelled by the FAA would have wrecked havoc with our other customers, both civillian (Boeing, McDonnald Douglas, Airbus, et.al.), and military, (the DOD takes a dim view of the FAA cancelling major projects out from under you.)

        This was a case where the company was – in essence – hanging off a bridge by the edges of their fingers.

        Had the original owners of the company still been running things, I would have been – in all liklihood – set for life. They were real people who knew everyone in the company by name and made a particular point of recognizing – and rewarding – excellence.

        What say ye?

        Jim (JR)

        Comment by Jim (JR) — September 12, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  46. Oops!

    Forgot to mention. . . The “manager who didn’t like intelligent subordinates” was a replacement. The previous manager was a dream to work for, as he recognized, encouraged and rewarded innovation and creativity in the people who worked for him. Being a good manager who was able to inspire the best from his reports got him laid-off too.

    What say ye?

    Jim (JR)

    Comment by Jim (JR) — September 10, 2011 @ 12:01 am

  47. Haha brilliant. I love that quote @ taste of their own medicine. It only shows these companies cant be brutal all the way and expect nothing to happen. Well done!

    Comment by Thomas Roule — October 1, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

  48. They did get a taste out of their own medicine but I really think the authors could have demanded more and perhaps settled this case for millions. Although it shows their willing to protect what they created and that it ain’t all about the money for them.

    Comment by Oukash Casi — October 26, 2011 @ 6:00 am

    • laws differ depending on the country. If I remember correctly in Germany the employer has to pay the inventors extra – for profitable patents – even if they were employed at the time of the invention. In US you don’t have this requirement and the inventors get nothing by default. In addition, every US company has you to sign away your ownership rights for invention that you make while employed, as a part of the confidentiality agreement, on the starting day of your employment.

      Comment by milkshake — October 26, 2011 @ 12:45 pm


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