Proper patent inventorship


Paul J. Sutton

The critical issue of who must be named inventor(s) on US patents is often misunderstood and may affect patent validity.

It is not unusual for true inventors to be left off patents and for non-inventors to be named. Sometimes, this error is intentional and may involve personalities and/ or politics within organisations. This article seeks to clarify this issue so that the reader is able to properly apply US patent law when dealing with inventorship.

Many years ago, I received a number of invention disclosures from a corporate client’s chief engineer. I visited him at his office and he gave detailed drawings of ingenious ideas to me so that they could be patented. When I asked him to identify each and all of the people who contributed to the inventive concepts, he was firm in identifying himself as the sole inventor to be named on related patent applications.

Years later, during a question and answer period following an intellectual property seminar that I presented to the same client’s engineers, marketing and sales personnel, an engineer raised his hand and asked: “If I alone create product inventions which I document to my boss, but he adopts the ideas as his own and names himself as the sole inventor on patent applications, what effect might this have? 

Inventorship, US patent law