Role model

Anyone who watched the World Cup final on Sunday could not have failed to have been amazed by the unspeakably beastly behaviour of the team from the Netherlands.

Rather than actually play the beautiful game of football, the Dutch players seemed intent on crippling as many of their Spanish opponents as possible in a series of the worst fouls that I have ever seen. If ever a team deserved to lose a competition simply for being an unsportsmanlike gang of demented animals, they did.

It’s a far cry, of course, from the gentlemanly behaviour of the companies and individuals who make up our own industry. Despite the fact that they compete ferociously with one another for business, it’s unlikely that you will ever see any of them physically kicking the chests or shins of their competition if they happen to come across them while making a call to a client, or on the floor of a trade show.

Perhaps that’s because our business, unlike the football business, is underpinned by the efforts of responsible and intelligent engineers and scientists who have spent years designing, patenting and marketing high-technology products. Instead of simply instructing their staff to beat the competition senseless by physical means, the managers and employees of such companies have learned that there are much more fair-handed ways to score goals in business.

That’s right. Rather than engage in blatantly unlawful physical actions, they employ the talents of teams of lawyers who legitimately defend their competitive intellectual property interests through the courts, ensuring that the patented products they have developed cannot simply be copied unfairly by others, or if they are, that they are duly compensated with some form of remuneration.

Sadly though, I’m sorry to report that one or two large engineering companies haven’t been playing the legal engineering game all that fairly recently. In some cases, their lawyers have been engaged as no more than bully boys to intimidate their competition by asserting the rights to broad dubious patents that the smaller companies are unable to defend in court due to financial reasons, with the result that they wind up paying thousands of dollars in unnecessary payments to their larger rivals.

Of course, the large companies involved in such actions represent no more of a role model to prospective engineering graduates than the unsportsmanlike World Cup team from the Netherlands do to upcoming young football talent.

Personally speaking, if I were an engineering graduate, I wouldn’t want to work for such engineering outfits any more than I would want to wear a garish orange football outfit. But then, I wouldn’t want to be a football referee or a lawyer either. Because no matter what outfit you kick a ball for, or patent a system for, one thing’s for sure – at least you can rest assured that you are not universally abhorred by everyone on the planet.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Engineeringtalk

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