I teach computer science (USA - graduate level). I am teaching a software design course, and for a lecture I am to give on software anti-patterns I would like to use a real world example from an institution I was previously employed with. To share the example I would create some abstract UML class diagrams showing the pattern that was used, I would explain the general purpose of the application and share where we got it wrong and how the students could learn from the anti-pattern. I don't have to reveal any code (not that I have any) or share any trade secrets, and I don't even have to use the name of organization. However if someone was to read my C.V. they could probably ascertain what organization I was speaking in reference to.

Is it considered 'ethical' behavior to share this example? Or should I seek authorization from the previous institution? Are there certain things I should do to protect myself or further obfuscate this example?

As far as I know I never signed any sort of NDA or non-compete covenant.

2 Answers 2


As long as you don't break contractural agreements (trade secrets, for example), there is no issue here. Ideas are free to use. The fact that someone else had an idea previously doesn't put it off-limits to anyone.

Even patented ideas can be discussed and shared. In fact, the patent application itself needs a lot of detail explaining it. You may not be able to implement those ideas in a "device" while the patent is in effect, but you can still explore and discuss it.

If you avoid revealing secrets that you have agreed not to reveal then there is no issue. But be sure about whatever contracts you agreed to.


Yes, students always like “real” examples. You seem to have “anonymized” it sufficiently.

Those examples that start “You have 3 widgets produced by a widget company...” are SO boring, using relevant material is always good.

Could you re-write it as a case study if that is relevant.

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