As per the recent news (LA Times: Contact AT&T's CEO, hear back from his lawyer), making suggestions to AT&T as an existing lifelong customer results in escalation to their legal dept, which subsequently sends the suggestion back to the suggester, with the lawyer articulating that the company respectfully declines to consider said suggestion.

"AT&T has a policy of not entertaining unsolicited offers to adopt, analyze, develop, license or purchase third-party intellectual property ... from members of the general public," Restaino said.

"Therefore, we respectfully decline to consider your suggestion."

This prompted the rival T-Mobile US' CEO to run a twitter campaign to publicly collect such declined suggestions (even issuing an official press release — https://newsroom.t-mobile.com/news/att-customer-ideas-welcome.htm).

.@ATT & #Randall are nuts. If they don’t want your ideas, we’ll take them! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ #Uncarrier is about listening/improving for customers!

Following the logic explained by AT&T in the latimes article, that people could later sue if a suggestion is acknowledged and implemented, one of the customers sent a suggestion to AT&T to raise prices by 10 dollars per month, and proactively claimed to assert the intellectual property rights over such suggestion in the same letter (the tweet was fav'ed by Legere for the apparent humour).

  • Would a suggestion to raise prices by 10 dollars per month prevent AT&T from doing so, without subjecting itself to the possibility of a legal action from the suggester? (If not, is that only because the suggestion is too trivial, or are there other reasons as well?)

  • If mere customer suggestions could really result in legal action if acknowledged and implemented, how come John Legere openly takes and implements suggestions from his customers, boasting about such practice in every one of his interviews, without any news of any suggestion-based lawsuits or settlements taking place?

  • Likewise, I've heard of many stories about startups taking suggestions from their first customers (whether corporate or individual ones) without giving back anything other than better service for same price. (This advice itself came as a suggestion at one of the startup talks about how to successfully start a business — it was explicitly advertised that employees of your customers will volunteer their company time and expretise to make sure you're successful if you can solve problems they want solutions for, without asking for anything in return other than the ability to purchase such solution (on the open market).) Are such startups opening the door for later lawsuits for equity from the people who gave the suggestions?

  • 1
    Off the top of my head, "raising prices by 10 dollars per month" is vanishingly unlikely to meet the criteria for invention that is a prerequisite for a patent. I'll assume you're interested in the United States; I'll need to research answers to the other questions, which are actually interesting.
    – jimsug
    Oct 14, 2015 at 8:34

1 Answer 1


There is no IP in ideas!

There is copyright in writing it down - they can't use your exact words without permission. However, sending it to them in the form of a suggestion would give them a pretty much unassailable argument that you have given them an implicit licence.

You can patent an invention (not an idea), claim IP in a trade mark (also, not an idea), register a design (again, not an idea) and hold copyright in an artistic work (once more, not an idea).

They are required to keep confidences but offering them a suggestion probably doesn't count as supplying confidential information.

I can see no risk in acting on customer suggestions.

Hence, the idea to raise prices can be acted on or not at the discretion of the company.

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