Imagine this: You are a patent attorney who has devoted years of your life to pursuing an education in engineering and law, as well as developing, patenting, and licensing your own inventions. After finding in patent law the perfect coexistence for your two professional passions, invention and law, you are seemingly at the height of your career when you become one of the highest-paid partners of a well-known national law firm. You have found a way to profit from pursuing what you love—something that most only dream about; what could be better? Next, imagine how you would feel, in light of all of your professional achievement and success, to have everything taken away when your employer asks you to resign from your position as a patent attorney due to a patent that you developed and sold to someone else. This very situation occurred when, on September 12, 2007, patent attorney Scott Harris was forced to resign by his employer, Fish & Richardson P.C. Harris’s forced resignation occurred after one of his personal patents, which he sold to a company called Illinois Computer Research (ICR), was used by ICR to bring a patent infringement lawsuit against one of Fish & Richardson’s current clients, Google, Inc. In addition, Fish & Richardson filed a breach of contract suit against Harris for allegedly “misusing firm resources and engaging in unauthorized legal work.” Harris denied all allegations against him and asserted the defense that although he signed an employment contract with Fish & Richardson, there was no provision specifically forbidding its attorneys from engaging in their own personal patent activity.

Ashley R. Presson, Patent-holding Patent Attorneys: Conflicts of Interest, Confidentiality, and Employment Issues,40 St. Mary’s L.J. 1039, (2009)