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Writing question du jour

I'm trying to think of the legal term for stealing someone else's unpublished ideas, specifically in a science context, but the same term probably applies generally. I don't think the term is "plagarism", because that's really about stealing actual text as well as the ideas themselves.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2010 10:58 am (UTC)
Tom Lehrer certainly described it as plagiarism in his wonderful song about the mathematician Lobchevsky.
May. 14th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
Is that about stealing ideas that might not even be written down by the originator of the idea?
May. 14th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
May. 14th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
I'm not a lawyer, but I think the term is plagiarism, although of a type harder to prove than just a straight lifting of text.
May. 14th, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think the actual legal term for it is, "You're SOL for opening your mouth around the *wrong* colleague, buddy."
May. 14th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
Theft of intellectual property.

And as you replied to Spilletta42, if it's not written down, one is tough out of luck, legally.
May. 14th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
There isn't a legal term because ideas cannot be copyrighted.
May. 14th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
No, but they can be patented, although that may only be if they are technological in some way....
May. 14th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
You'd have to be more specific. Patent law gets very complicated, especially in the realm of intellectual property in science. The US Patent and Trademark Office may have what you need. If you can prove you are first inventor and meet the requirements for obtaining a patent, you could accuse them of theft of intellectual property and institute interference proceedings.
May. 14th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know about legal terms, but academically stealing ideas is considered plagiarism.

May. 14th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
Well, this is definitely an academic setting, a professor/researcher passing off a student's ideas as their own.
May. 14th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
That's plagiarism and also violates the professor's obligation to the student, but unfortunately hard to prove and not uncommon, I think. Very sad.
May. 14th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
Well, luckily for me, it's fictional, and the student just has to *think* she has a legal case, even if she doesn't, so whatever term I use for it doesn't actually have to be a legitimate legal term for the situation, as long as she thinks it is.

One of the benefits of the unreliable narrator....
May. 14th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
So glad it's fictional! Not always the case, unfortunately, as I'm sure you know.
May. 14th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
The student is most likely SOL.

Per the US Patent and Trademark Office:

Interpretations of the statute by the courts have defined the limits of the field of subject matter that can be patented, thus it has been held that the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter.

A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required.
(Deleted comment)
May. 15th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
This story is already written, and I'm just polishing the text, so I can't change the details of it now. All I need is for the character to *think* she has a case, so it can fuel her righteous anger at her advisor, who is using the student's ideas in her research, and giving them to other students to do as projects, without giving the original student credit.
May. 18th, 2010 02:54 am (UTC)
From what you & everyone else have said, I think you could go with either "plagiarism" or "theft of intellectual property," since it's a q. of what the student thinks it is. And her anger is righteous whether she has a legal case or not!

Oh, & in "Lobachevsky" the proof may have been written down (probably how it got from Dnepropetrovsk to Pinsk), but the issue was that it hadn't been published: "My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed/When he finds out--I published first!" (That's fair use, right? @>) ) Not that that has anything to do w/US copyright law....
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )