Jump to content

Featured Articles

Check out the latest featured articles.

File Library

Check out the latest downloads available in the File Library.

New Article

Product Viscosity vs. Shear

Featured File

Vertical Tank Selection

New Blog Entry

Low Flow in Pipes- posted in Ankur's blog

Information - Who Does It Belong To?

ethics information

This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
7 replies to this topic
Share this topic:
| More

#1 golden_gate


    Junior Member

  • Members
  • 12 posts

Posted 06 November 2011 - 10:21 AM

Hi everyone,

I've started work at a large multi national corporation in the oil and gas industry.

Being such a competitive industry, it seems that everything I come in contact with - drawings, manuals, everything in my laptop is considered "privileged" / "proprietary" or "for XXX (insert company name here) only".

I understand some things are definitely trade secrets, for example, a specific method of manufacturing a catalysts. But how about other common areas like, say a specific example of CO2 scrubbing by an amine solution. Wouldn't you think that this sort of technology is already well developed enough for everyone to know how to do it?

Seems rather futile or even a bit selfish for a company in trying to protect all this "general" info. So what are your opinions on this?

Also, engineering being the profession capable of making a significant difference in society, should we not be engaging and sharing information on a more open basis, ie for the greater good? I'm sure there is tremendous potential when rival companies actually decide to work on something to advance society as a whole.

Just my "idealistic" rant, but appreciate your thoughts.

#2 ankur2061


    Gold Member

  • Forum Moderator
  • 2,484 posts

Posted 07 November 2011 - 10:05 AM


To answer your question, yes things should be shared for the common good of the society. But then people (read corporations / companies) who have done research to develop something think that they have all the right to make obscene amounts of money from what they have developed. This is particularly true in the field of pharmaceuticals, where life saving drugs are still prohibitively costly to the underprivileged class of the society. Man's greed is a double-edged sword. While it has lead to some wonderful inventions and discoveries for the good of humanity it has also led to the development of some of the deadliest weapons to kill and maim and bring the world to the brink of extinction.

Enough of lecturing. I do want to highlight that in it's own small way "Cheresources" is bringing into the open, chemical engineering knowledge what was once privy to a very few. Look at the wonderful discussion forums, the free excel calculation programs found on the forum. I think "Cheresources" is playing a great role in bringing a renaissance by freely dispensing knowledge in the realm of chemical engineering.

My continued best wishes to Chris Haselgo the owner of "Cheresources" for doing this service to the chemical engineering community.


#3 kkala


    Gold Member

  • Banned
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,939 posts

Posted 20 November 2011 - 04:55 PM

Worst case of document restriction met in work place is when somebody tries to limit distribution for personal benefit. In your case restriction is tried, allegedly for company benefit. If I can judge from local situation, characterization of a document as proprietary can be arbitrary. The company can claim a document as "proprietary" , but has anybody checked whether (α) it is knowledge common to engineering (β) it is a copy "taken" from another company? Besides a company may not be able to judge whether a document saying something deserves to be proprietary, characterizing it so to be on the safe side.
Having worked for several companies, I observed exaggerations on this matter. I remember a secrecy agreement for an industrial course in 1978; things were not proprietary, those probably being were not shown to me. Or a company policy (for a short time, indeed) not to supply electronic drawings, since some of the symbols (blocks) contained in them were proprietary. Or a director, reluctant to give a practice of general knowledge to another Dept of same company.
Let us consider the case when a company has really created something by their own. The question can go further, wondering whether all these covered by copyright, patents, etc, are fair. Our society recognizes indemnity + reasonable profit for the "inventor", more or less defined by law, to promote innovation. Fortunately medicine is not patented, yet pharmaceutical drug methods are not free.
But even patented items have limitations. Drugs as chemical compounds can be freely prepared, according to my information. All patents have expiration date. Mentioned secrecy agreement expired after 10 or 20 years, I can't remember. There is really an equilibrium, hopefully shifted to more fair points as society is advancing.
Patience against such a company policy is indicated, better wait and see. Employee has to defend company rights, of course legal rights. It is not easy to distinguish between it and abuse, apart from the risk of being spotted. For instance, I dislike non free articles in Web, but this is legal.
Wait to see what is applicable. A local company looked strict on these matters, but reality was different. System of printed documents, warnings, etc had come from a Consultant, not applied in practice. Yet other companies can really mean what they write.
A late director always erased identification from the documents distributed to persons for general knowledge. Little by little you will understand what you can or cannot do concerning this subject in your working environment.

Edited by kkala, 20 November 2011 - 05:08 PM.

#4 golden_gate


    Junior Member

  • Members
  • 12 posts

Posted 29 November 2011 - 09:43 AM

Thanks for your responses!

Yes, do believe that this forum is doing a great service to all of us out there. I think it's important to realize that many things are learnt through experience. Being a good engineer is also much more than just knowing the facts but also about applying sound technical judgment that comes from solid experience.

I think as humans it's instinctual to protect things that we have worked hard to achieve. I supposed the party that has invested time and money into a technology deserves its share of the profits. That's just how the world works.

On the same note, I think there are "company issued" conversion charts that says 1m = 3.28 ft etc marked as proprietary. Wouln't have guessed that.

#5 JMW


    Gold Member

  • ChE Plus Subscriber
  • 166 posts

Posted 02 December 2011 - 12:22 PM

One more thought, in an attempt to protect proprietary information it may well be the case that everything is covered by a protection rule as a safety measure.... no excuses for releasing something which ought not to have been released.... and to save someone spending all day every day advising what is and what isn't suitable for the public domain.
In the case of something that is public domain, restricting the release through such controls doesn't harm the public interest because the information is already out there.
But even some seemingly trivial things can assume commercial significance so a better safe than sorry approach is appropriate.
Note that in any confidentiality documents I have signed, the injunction against revealing information deliberately or inadvertently can be defended by showing the information is already in the public domain.
So if its is in the public domain already, where is the problem? It plainly cannot prevent an individual from using public domain information in another job. What it does protect is any sensitive information not in the public domain but attached to information that is.

#6 kkala


    Gold Member

  • Banned
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,939 posts

Posted 05 December 2011 - 12:47 PM

Considering local conditions, it is probable that no prosecution will occur, if somebody gets proprietary data (supposed or real) out of the company without intent of profit. But once spotted, firing on an irrelevant excuse may be realized a bit later. Either the data is actually proprietary or not, fired employee cannot have recourse to justice, officially there is no issue of proprietary documents!
As noted in previous posts, a company has no problem to characterize a document as proprietary, even if it is not. But I think all proprietary documents have an expiration day, as patents do. How long can a document remain proprietary before it gets "public domain"? Information on this would be appreciated. It may depend on the content of the document.
Companies revise the documents, probably use of some past revisions has been "public domain". Companies would not give info on it. I signed a secrecy agreement (1978) stating I could disclose the data after 10 or 20 years (actually there were no proprietary data given), so probably technical standards 20 years old are free domain. But I do not think this is valid for e.g. API publications.

Edited by kkala, 05 December 2011 - 12:55 PM.

#7 golden_gate


    Junior Member

  • Members
  • 12 posts

Posted 08 December 2011 - 11:55 AM

Very interesting points raised here. Appreciate your feedback once again. I think we are all made aware that any unauthorised leak of information can quickly become a big issue.

Probably a good point is that we seldom hear of chemicals / oil and gas companies suing each other on intellectual property issues (correct me if I am wrong). Many of the IT companies / pharmaceuticals probably face a lot more pressure in trying to protect and defending their technology.

From what I understand, the proprietary information at hand does not have an "expiration date". My general contract states that the Intellectual Property rules and regulations applies even after leaving the company without an end date.

On a side note, say if the party that discovered / invented the internet decided to patent this new technology. We might all have to pay to access the web, wouldn't we? And they would legally have all the "rights" to ask for this payment to use a technology developed by them.

Bottomline is that most things in this world are driven by economics.

#8 JMW


    Gold Member

  • ChE Plus Subscriber
  • 166 posts

Posted 08 December 2011 - 05:13 PM

Tim Berners-Lee didn't patent the internet so he has no opportunity to impose any charges.
On the other hand, the gif file format is protected (owned by Compuserve) and there remains a possibility that trhey could impose charges at some time which is why many advocate using *png format instead.
But not sure what this has to do with what an employer considers you may or may not release.

Similar Topics