Lien on Nortel Patents

Political Reality, Virtual Reality

Just as a plumber can place a construction lien on a house when they are not fully paid for their labour, Nortel’s current and past employees should have the right to place a lien on the intellectual property they created but are not being fully paid for via pension and severance obligations.

Under common law, a lien is a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation.

At the time of employment, Nortel created a contractual obligation to pay it’s employees salary and pension in return for transfer of ownership of all intellectual property, including patents, created by its employees.

Nortel, in bankruptcy, has breached that contract and Nortel’s past and current employees should be entitled to collectively place an equitable lien on the patent portfolio to assure payment.

If our current federal and provincial governments were not asleep at the switch concerning Nortel’s demise, they would be enshrining this protective right for white collar workers into statute in the same way that the Construction Lien Act protects blue collar workers.

Instead our elected representatives have their heads stuck in dark places while US and European jurisdictions pick apart all of Nortel’s assets to protect their native workers.

Bookmark and Share


  1. mitch  •  Sep 26, 2009 @2:32 pm

    Interesting tactic, Paul. My experience from my Nortel patenting days: they were very disorganized. First, IP from employment contracts are virtually useless. But the patents are different. The inventor is the owner of the IP until the application is filed. With the filing, the employee signs over the patent to the assignee (Nortel). Since it is a contract, there is supposed to be a transaction (as little as $1 would suffice). But Nortel had no such system in place to compensate inventors until about 1995 when it introduced a reasonable compensation system (up to $5,000k + per inventor).

    With this confusion in mind, does Nortel own outright the patents it paid inventors post 1995? Do the inventors still rightly own the patents prior to that? I’d love to know. Of my 18 patents about 2/3 were not compensated.

  2. renaud  •  Sep 27, 2009 @3:40 pm

    IMHO you should explore launching a class action suit on the uncompensated patents. This will ease your legal costs since lawyers in a class action are paid a percentage of the outcome. It will also have more weight and get more press than a solo action would.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

/* ADDED Google Analytics */