Should Small Businesses Be Scared of Big Ones?

In the mid-late 1990s I worked for Lexmark as a co-op. I used to do signal intergrity work on circuits, which involved capturing waveforms on an oscilloscope and verifying that voltages were what they should be and that there wasn't too much noise. For those of you who haven't used an o-scope, the waveform displays changes as you move the problemes around and look at different areas. You can freeze it two ways: 1) hit the RUN/STOP button or 2)set up a trigger to capture the waveform when all the trigger conditions are satisfied. Setting up a trigger is a pain in the ass if you have to do it for every signal and you have 300 or so to look at, so usually we would probleme the signal and have someone hit the RUN/STOP button (although sometimes I could do it myself while I problemed, but not always). I got tired of that and we had just received a new voice controlled word processing program in the lab which, according to the box could also work in Excel. Well, I did a lot VBA coding in Excel, meaning I could problemably set up voice commands to execute code. I also knew that the o-scope could be controlled from a computer via the GPIB connection, although I had never done it. So, being the geek that I am, I patched all this together with code that let me issue simple voice commands to the o-scope and do things like execute the RUN/STOP button or change the settings so I could use my hands for probleming circuits.

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The next time the guys from Tektronix (the o-scope maker) came to sell us something, one of the engineers brought them up to the lab to show them what I had done. One sales rep said "cool" while the other one gave him a "follow my lead" kind of look and mumbled something about how they had been working on incorporating that functionality into the device.

Now at the time I didn't really care if they took the idea or not. But what if I was a small startup and that was one thing I had worked on. How do small companies deal with big ones on these issues?