I was talking with a colleague / customer recently who told me about a bad situation with one of their vendors. They made a purchase from the vendor and installed and commissioned the equipment. They (the customer) had an idea that they thought may enhance EAF performance by utilizing the equipment in a way that the vendor had not anticipated. He noted that they asked the vendor about it and left it at that. They found out later that the vendor patented the idea. Considering that the backlog at the USPTO is about a year, the vendor must have fast-tracked it.
Things like this bother me. At a minimum this is very un-ethical. If I were the customer I would try to not do business with this vendor in the future. Unfortunately this customer has no choice at this point.