|Frangas non Flectes|
I used to make guitar pickups for a well-known brand. I left the company three years ago. The manager I worked under at the time has since been fired. The shift supervisor at the time, who really did not like me, replaced him and now sits at his old desk in his old office, with all his notes and such.
Back when I was still excited about working at this place, before the toxicity snuffed out my fire, I went to the now ex-manager with an idea for a type of pickup. I'm not going to go into even vague details about what it was, but when I thought of it, I was astounded that nobody had thought of it and brought it to market before. As far as I can tell, there is nobody else making this exact pickup now. If you know what I used to build and where to look, you'll probably figure it out, but I ask that nobody please actually post guesses. I really don't want to get sued, leave it at that.
It would have been easy to spool up and produce as well, with virtually no change in what we stocked for build inventory, and could be built into a whole line of models with different turn counts and magnet types. Maybe the magnets might have required a custom order from the supplier, but I threw together a secret prototype out of scrap stuff just to see if it could be done with some particular magnets we had on hand, and it worked and it read just about what I imagined it would. It never got installed in a guitar or even made it off my workbench, I destroyed the prototype and the parts went straight in the trash because I didn't want to risk getting fired over it, even though there was nothing forbidding it in the contract I signed.
Anyway, it worked, right? So I went to my manager with a rough hand-drawn blueprint of this thing complete with notes and pitched it to him. He immediately shit all over me. It was brutal. "We don't pay you to think, we pay you to produce" and "there's no way to know what this thing will sound like" and "even IF we wanted to build something like this, it would have to be because [Owner] thought it up, not one of you peons" and "you're not the first guy to work here to come up with ideas for their own business while working here" and plenty more. You get the picture. All this in front of the inventory manager, to boot.
I did all this knowing that the company owns anything I produce while I'm there, including concepts and processes, expecting them to want to own the idea, and hoping that the company would produce the fucking pickup. Instead, I got mocked and belittled and sent back to my workbench feeling about two inches tall. Ok, lesson learned.
I went to the company website this afternoon to link a friend to a particular model I used to build, and scrolled just a hair past it in haste and saw my concept pickup. For sale. Sonofabitch! Briefly looking into it, it seems to be pretty well-received and popular. Sonofabitch! Fucking thing sounds good, too. Sonofabitch!
Obviously, the ex-manager kept the spec sheet and diagram just like he said he would. Obviously, the guy who replaced him who hated my guts found it and said "hey, that's not too shabby." Good for them that they finally used my idea, and I'm not a little proud that it works well and sounds good and people love it. But damn, both of those guys made me feel lower than wormshit countless times, and especially over this pickup concept.
I'm not in competition with my former employer, and I wouldn't have had the capacity to bring something like this to market. I didn't shop the idea around to competing businesses after leaving the company. I ceded all rights to it like I agreed to. I did what I should have, I did the right thing. I didn't even want the credit. Hell, I didn't even need a pat on the back. I simply would have loved to be told, at the time, "hey, that's not a bad idea. Throw one together and we'll pitch it to [Owner]" and eventually been making the damn things. That kind of satisfaction would have been truly epic. I would have been proud of that forever. Now? I don't know what I feel about it. Fuck.
Interesting story but the whole time I'm reading, I'm thinking who were you working for? C'mon I've gotta know.
No one's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.- Mark Twain
#14 … I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be!
Part of my choice to be happy is to take pride/pleasure in my accomplishments regardless of how they have been recognized, or not recognized, by others.
And FWIW, I believe you would be completely justified in feeling proud about that accomplishment regardless of whether anyone else recognized you for it.
“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
— Bertrand Russell
|Frangas non Flectes|
Never going to happen. I'm sorry, man. I needed to vent, but I really don't need to be playing around with getting sued.
Thank you. No, you're right. I need to look at it as a very high compliment that the guy who owns the company eventually did think highly enough of my idea to R&D it and bring it to market. I am proud of coming up with an original take on a classic design, and as a result, they'll build up a whole line off of this concept and it will make some players out there seriously happy. Meeting and talking to happy customers at trade shows who were enthused about meeting the guys who built their guitar pickups was easily the best part of the job and made me feel like an absolute rock star. I loved making stuff that people got excited about, and three years after I left the company, that is apparently still happening. I can't think of another former employee there who can make the same claim.
I also talked to a friend about it, and he related having a picture he took of a rare guitar that got used by Sam Ash in their promo materials, and in the end, he chose to take it as a compliment as well. He, too, told me "do good things when others aren't watching and don't seek the credit - this counts." I just wish my manager hadn't spiked it when he did, but I can't change that, so I accept it.
I hope you received a handsome Severance Package for signing whatever separation agreement was demanded by your previous employer. I can't imagine living under the threat of litigation for 'merely mentioning' you worked somewhere!
Regardless of the circumstances, it's a shame you were driven from from doing what was your life's passion! 'Toxicity' in the workplace seems like a MAJOR understatement here....
If Some is Good, and More is Better.....then Too Much, is Just Enough !!
Trump 2020....Make America Great Again!
"May Almighty God bless the United States of America" - parabellum 7/26/20
|Eye on the|
Yup. Stick with the high road here.
Every major company I’ve worked for had me sign paperwork indicating my ideas were theirs during my employment with them. I’m sorry yours were on paper for anyone to steal, and those folks weren’t honest enough to share the fact that the idea was all you. But maybe they were turned in with your name on it, and the bigwigs took it off? Either way, you know you have great ideas!
"Trust, but verify."
I feel for you P220 Smudge. I'm a big fan of pick-up design, and have always loved the vintage styles if I could ever get my paws on them without destroying a vintage build. I was always on the vintage PAF hunt and was really blessed to have original Paf's in my LP's, along with vintage electronics, caps, pots, etc. I'd spend quite a bit of time on the phone with my Pick-up guy Jim Rolph in Tenn. We'd spend a good amount of time discussing pick designs, single and dual coils, vintage alnico's, coil tapping.
My guitars were usually sent to him to set up and test/install my PAF's when purchased. I didn't mind sending him my guitars and/or the vintage finds.
I remember reading many of your posts over the years and your pick-up builds. Too I think I remember other members here purchasing some of them. I wish you well as things unfold, and someplace in the end getting rewards for your interests. Your post sounds nothing much a rant as much as your passion, I admire that.
These were the real deal, I'm don't recall exactly now but one was an original 58' and the other a 59' (that my have been the zebra in the neck) Though vintage working ones costed $$, I'd snap them up in a heartbeat back then if I could, and did. They would find their way up to Jim and he's go over then, and install them. He's kind of a quirky guy I understand, but he was always up for a conversation and would often play my guitar to me over the phone in his shop. He'd give me his opinion, and even others that were in his shop what they thought. I really trusted this guy, and we'd have some great conversation about his thoughts. Like you, very talented. I hope doors open for you, stay passionate..
Here's a snap of the 58' and 59' original PAF's I was fortunate to snap up in years past, being in the right place at the right time.
Regards, Will G.
|I Am The Walrus|
That really sucks. This is also why I never share ideas with my employer or any of my co-workers. Sorry but I'm not going to let others profit off my ideas if I've signed anything saying they own it. Nope.
Back to pups, what makes the old pups so good that todays technology can't replicate them? Or is this an old guy thing?
For me it was just a vintage collecting thing. I think that new pickups can be built outstandingly, and are. I was lucky to find a few oldies with good wire and in good working condition. It can be said that the same argument is like owning and driving a vintage car as opposed to a new one. I like both. I have just as much faith in the modern pickup builds, they can be built to suit any tastes, as opposed to just take what you find with a working vintage. I was lucky to find two old ones that were checked and sounded great. I've had many great guitars with new electronics that I loved. My only regret is that I never had the fortune to hear some of P220's design builds.
Regards, Will G.
Not necessarily true. As an atty, I used to work "in the neighborhood" of this area of the law. Ownership of ideas is highly fact specific, and the law favors the inventor, not the employer. If this is something you feel strongly about, you should consult a good atty.
NRA Endowment Life Member; ISRA Member
“The Left want to be our shepherds. But that requires us to be sheep.” ― Thomas Sowell
|Frangas non Flectes|
No, not for mentioning I worked there. But as I'm not a lawyer, I want to steer well clear of say anything that they could construe as being libel or slander. It's just not worth it to me to kick that hornet's nest.
Thanks. Yeah, it's taken me a good bit of time to get over that place. I don't know anybody who worked there who didn't start off excited and awe-struck, only to leave bitter and crushed over the experience.
Thanks. Yeah, putting it down in writing was where I went wrong, but in the end, players will get to benefit from it.
Thanks, man, I appreciate it.
Yeah, lesson learned. Don't be like me!
Will covered it pretty well. We have the technology (snigger) to reverse-engineer early examples of pickups. In my two hands, I've held a box full of very early Gibson prototypes of P-90's and PAF's that came from Les Paul's personal collection, and then went to his nephew, who you'd know as John 'Cougar' Mellencamp, then to my old company. They were sitting on a shelf under a workbench, covered in dust. For all I know, they still are. They belong in a museum.
Anyways, these early examples had been meticulously disassembled, and the turn counts counted by hand. They had analysis done on the metallurgy of the screws, magnets, wire, and more. I was shown what I guess was a mass spectrometer readout of the metallurgy of a bar magnet from a 50's PAF comparing it to the metallurgy of the magnets we used - you could see where and how they were similar and where and how they were different. We did an A/B listening session one day between two pickups and each of us were asked to give our impression of the difference in tone in a blind taste-test of sorts. Everyone chose 'A' for sounding warmer and more rounded. Turns out 'A' and 'B' were both the same pickup, which was our copy of a vintage PAF, but pickup 'A' had polescrews, polepieces and a magnet that were directly harvested from a dead 50's PAF that got salvaged for parts. They were honestly so close that it wasn't worth it to get the components burn tested to see if we could exactly duplicate the metallurgy and the chemical composition of the magnet, but they were different enough that we all blindly chose the pickup with the vintage parts in it.
So, the answer to your question is yes and no, and "it depends." Maybe that's helpful, or maybe it just muddies the waters even more. The reality is, Fender and Gibson have always been guitar companies, not pickup companies. They built pickups for electric guitars because without them, they weren't electric guitars, but they weren't always quality and they didn't always sound good. The truth is, they both stumbled into a number of amazing sounding pickups by chance or blind luck. I've repaired a number of vintage pickups from the 40's through the 70's, and the workmanship on them amused me. They were truly slapped together with little thought that they would ever be revered and rebuilt fifty years later, but much more likely end up in a dumpster some day much sooner than that. A fair amount of the amazing sound of those old pickups, I'm convinced, is the result of American steel and American magnets, and the modern Chinese sources of those simply don't have the same heart and soul.
Shoot me an email at the address in my profile.
Hmmm, that's interesting. I am no lawyer, I'm just going on what I was told. Maybe I'll look into it, but probably not. I have no proof of my claim (aside from sharing this idea with a coworker I sat back-to-back with at the time), don't have the money to bring a lawsuit or even hire a lawyer, and don't have a taste for the drama and stress that would invariably come with it.
I wasn't under an NDA when I blabbed on what the school system was doing. Hell, I even recorded conversations between the superintendent and I.
When they found out I had done that, they threatened to have me arrested and sue me.
The FBI guy just laughed in their attorney's face.
My attorney asked if they would like to see if they had funding for a jackpot payout.
Eeewwww, don't touch it!
Here, poke at it with this stick.
|Little ray |
For what this free, non-advice is worth:
I don't think you have to worry about being sued. They may have more to worry about in that regard than you do, but I don't think your claims would be worth very much, either, for all the reasons you gave. But really, I don't think there are any valid lawsuits lurking around in this one.
Sorry to hear it worked out this way. But you do have the satisfaction of knowing it worked.
The fish is mute, expressionless. The fish doesn't think because the fish knows everything.
|Frangas non Flectes|
Thanks, JHE, I appreciate the perspective.
|Still finding my way|
As an electric guitar player I'd be interested in knowing what was special about the design if there are any clues you may give about your target sound or philosophy behind the design...
|Frangas non Flectes|
Maybe you like vanilla ice cream, maybe you like chocolate. This is a swirl cone with sprinkles on it. That’s all ya get.
If you figure it out, please keep it to yourself.
|Still finding my way|
|Savor the limelight|
You should be proud your idea came to fruition.
Send the owner a "You're Welcome" card.
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."
Smudge, the more I thought about it last night the closer I got to "finding that particular tone hamster wheel" that I was forever on and chasing after, being an older member of a Gibson Guitar forum many years past. It was like yesterday...ok, vintage paf's are the secret, hey..I found a lead on vintage pots and original NOS capacitors..or pickup covers on/off debates, on and on. Needless to say as so many follow chasing after that particular tone and members solutions. I spent a small fortune chasing after that stuff.
In the end though I realized that so many items filtered the finished tone product. From the fixed things like the magnets, the coils and possibly a 3-way selector, then thru the variables like the pots, caps, and electronics. Then to the amp settings, the pedals and effects, then on to the finished recordings thru the mixers and sound boards. Just getting from the vintage pickups to the end results how colored the tone was shaped, mind boggling.
I still wish that even today I had the smartphone for photos snapped of all my various amp settings that suited my particular tastes...and not to get started on the amp tone chases too..the vintage speakers, NOS vintage tubes, etc.
I did however in the end find my particular tone using the above guitar and paf's. And mostly the rhythm zebra exclusively. That "woody" vintage Gibson tone as best I can describe it. But at what $$. I thought I'd never be satisfied.
Sadly, the guitar for me was laid to rest due to a brain injury and total loss of my left arm/hand. It's just a part of life I guess, a transition from the player to the listener. I was blessed to even play as many years as I did, and still look back on that "vintage tone chase" and smile.
I hope you get some satisfactory resolve, you seem to be a determined person and I'm confident you'll make and/or receive end benefits out of your persistence and determination to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Regards, Will G.
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