Saint Louis, MO asked in Intellectual Property, Patents (Intellectual Property) and Trademark for Missouri

Q: I prepared a research paper and sent it to my boss. I later saw it published with his name only. Is it legal?

I contacted the publisher and they are not willing to do anything. What are my options?

1 Lawyer Answer
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: Unfortunately, this happens to good researchers by bad bosses way too often, both in academia and in industry. I am sorry that it happened to you.

If you are a grad student or a post-doc, and you'll eventually need your boss's recommendation to get a good job down the road, it may not be worth it to fight him/her about it in your university ethics panel (or whatever you have at your university). Other professors and others in the field probably know that you did the work, and that he/she just ripped you off, so with respect to any thesis defense committee, you don't have to worry too much about it. You may want to take credit for your work on your CV anyway, though you did not have your name on the publication. Depending on your circumstances, you could possibly publish a paper under your name only. Legally, your options are pretty limited.

If you are a worker whose job it is to do research for your employer, the situation is even worse. If the employer pays you, and you thus assigned all the intellectual property to your employer, then the employer can do with your research paper what the employer wants. The employer can publish it, or keep it secret, or the employer can get a patent on your invention, etc. And the employer can prevent you from speaking about it. It sucks when the results of your work are not fully accredited to you, but the credit is your paycheck. If you are in a big company, there likely is some sort of an ethics committee that you can complain to about it, but legally, your options are very limited.

I wish that I could give you better news. Maybe your situation is a bit more complex, and under the Missouri law somehow you have other options, but you'd have to search out an IP lawyer in Missouri to have that answered.

Good luck!

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