•   over 7 years ago

technical solution ruled ineligible due to 'insufficient' disclosure for public gallery

First, this is nothing against the challenge managers who made the ineligible ruling. They have been prompt and courteous in explaining to me why the ruling came down to such. I have accepted their interpretation and final ruling. The main issue is that this challenge is really a science fair instead of solicitation for serious ideas to a serious problem.

What came down is this self-contradicting clause in the challenge rules:
"(i) The text description must describe how the Solution functions or would function, if implemented. The text description will be displayed publicly on the Competition Website and should not include proprietary information."
This clause really means is that you can have your rights to privacy and intellectual property but your hard work is forfeited if you don't disclose enough to our public gallery.

Prior to making my submission official, I seek official statement on the submission rights to intellectual property in this forum and received assurance that nondisclosure and IP can be assured by submitting the materials only in the nonpublic file attachment entry. I made my submission in the form of a formal technical paper, which contains a cover page with the abstract of my solution, sections including: description, operating principle, design and implementation of the Solution and answers to three questions posed by the Challenge rule. All these is contained in a single pdf file. For the public display, I entered a very brief descriptive title of my solution fearing that anymore disclosure will disclose too much proprietary details.

After the deadline, I learned that my submission was ruled ineligible due to challenge manager does not view what I provided for the public gallery sufficiently explaining what I wanted to do. I offered to make public display of the content in the already accepted technical paper thus surrendering my rights of non-disclosure and patent potential. The offer was rejected on the ground that it will be altering the public gallery submission. Note that I did not argue to alter the content of my submission in anyway but rather allowing the challenge to display a previously agreed nonpublic document. The ruling came down to that the Challenge cares more about an inconsequential public gallery display than the actual technical solution. This is a ruling for high school science fairs, not a professional solicitation of important issue. I know because I was a judge for high school science fair and have been a professional investor for two decades.

Again, this is not against the challenge managers who are simply following the rules set up where public appearance dictates how ideas are brought to the decision makers. I sincerely hope that the judges can find a gem in the hundreds of what I have seen as mostly amateurish entries in the public gallery in combating the robocall epidemic. What I do know is that they will see one less idea than they could have because the way this challenge is set up: a science fair for the general public with a paper thin facade of serious professional intention.

  • 9 comments

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    Really?! Very shocking if this is true. There must be more to this story. I didn't think the public description was that important, after all, there are some really silly ideas out there!

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    I can't see your submission so I can't comment on what you posted for public display, though I wonder why you thought disclosing proprietary information would put you at a disadvantage.

    - From the point of view of the contest, you could have waited till the end date to disclose it.
    - From the point of view of generally creating a product/service out of your solution, you had several options like filing a patent or building a demo that allowed you to look for investors or partners. I suppose that would allow you time to have the first mover's advantage.

    Did you foresee some thing else that I am missing?

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    -Tony
    Neither did I but apparently we were both wrong. My public description is "platform agnostic robocall interrupt" (As an engineer by training I like to be brief.). I did not have a picture since I prepared my proposal as a single technical paper so I pasted the same thing as jpeg for the photo entry. The actual proposal is a proprietary system designed to be deployed as an interrupt on robocall drop incidents, and described in details in the nonpublic pdf file. The Challenge Managers' ruling is that "Platform agnostic robocall interrupt" is insufficient and they also cannot allow the nonpublic pdf file to be made public since it was not originally part of the public display entry. So in reality it is the public gallery content qualifies whether an entry can even be presented to the actual judges. Again, the Challenge Manager have been prompt and courteous in explaining to me why they have to rule as such. It is just the Challenge is using a science fair ruling and not what I expected in professional idea gathering.

    Indranee-
    My solution is designed to be deployed at the system level and not a consumer solution so as an individual I have no first mover advantage once the idea is known. Every country other than US has first filed rule for patent approval, and even in the US to challenge a first filed patent based on first invent stance is extremely difficult and costly. Given the self-contradicting rules and that FTC is government (US patent requires disclosure of government material interest) I was planning on waiting for result to see if the proposal is eligible for patent and put the investment down for a prototype. Of course in hindsight, taking the Challenge's assurance of IP protection on faith is what doomed my entry. Had I known I would have make the document public and surrendering my rights in the first place, as I offered and was rejected after Challenge came down with my ruling.

    Challenge Manager admitted that the rule is unclear but they have to make a ruling based on what they have and this is their interpretation. This is their Challenge and I abide by their rules. I didn't like the ruling, I appealed and they rejected with reason. I was surprised by the reasoning but it is official.

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    David thanks very much for your feedback. We take all feedback seriously and will certainly note it for the future. As for the specifics, this is a public competition whereby people do need to give a text description so that their submissions can be seen by the public. It doesn't need to be especially detailed but it needs to at least be a complete sentence and understandable (unfortunately not the case here, though we wish so!).

    We mean no offense at all by that, rather it's just that to be fair to all contestants who followed the rules, we really do have to treat people equally and according to the rules. Thank you again for your participation and feedback and we are sorry your submission was not eligible.

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    I must say, I'm still shocked by the ruling. What David posted as description may be nothing more than a title but why put so much weight the description when public opinion doesn't matter? Unless I'm missing something, I don't see where the public can vote on a solution. But even so, wouldn't it be up to the public to decide? I'd say give David's solution a chance, after all, it's the private documents submitted that really matters. Another thing, what if David's solution is the only working solution? Wouldn't it be a waste of everyone's time, not to mention your own resources, to post this challenge to begin with?

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    Hi Tony, thanks again for the feedback. I mean it when I say it's appreciated.

    Regardless of whether an entrant thinks a text description is needed or not, it's important that competition sponsors and managers follow the rules. I can't think of one competition where there wasn't at least one person who wished something was done differently. It's not easy, especially when there are hundreds upon hundreds of submissions and many people are likely to disagree with each other. But it's important in order to be fair to everyone who did follow the rules.

    FTC has done great work building a community and wanting to know about solutions, not just through this competition. There's no reason that any one submitter can't take part in that even if they weren't eligible for a given competition, whether it be to attend a conference or another effort.

    But again for the competition we have to come back to the rules, which are the governing document and are there to make sure that one entrant isn't disadvantaged over another. I hope this is helpful information, even if it's a bummer to you or others. I assure you that it's a bummer to us every time we have to make a submission ineligible.

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    -Tony
    Thank you for your support but I really do no wish to put the blame on the Challenge Managers who have acted professionally throughout. It was my fault for not realizing that I was entering a science fair. Let's hope that a solutions is found in the 744 accepted entries.

    To Brandon-
    The problem really is in this clause, especially when dealing with IP sensitive engineering documents:

    "(i) The text description must describe how the Solution functions or would function, if implemented. The text description will be displayed publicly on the Competition Website and should not include proprietary information."

    Had the clause included the following this unfortunate incident would not have happened:

    "The text description should be considered as the Abstract of the solution and not the title."

    I did have an Abstract for my solution but by standard it was on the cover page of the technical paper. For us engineers, text description and descriptive title are often the same thing. We are not English majors.

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    Update: Happy Conclusion Feb 20, 2013

    Challenge Manager has reviewed the case again, after I have accepted the original ineligible ruling I might add. The final rule interpretation is that placing my paper in public gallery from private view does meet the Challenge description disclosure requirement. The entry is now accepted for judging.

  •   •   over 7 years ago

    Hooray! Now if only they're more transparent in their judging, I'd like to follow the progress.

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