The word "inventorship" is a word of art, making an exact definition somewhat difficult. Put simply, inventorship describes the quality of a person who invents or discovers any "new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter," or any new and useful improvement of any of the following.
Inventorship is important because, unless the inventor assigns his rights to another person, only the actual inventor can apply for the patent. So, when you file for a patent, you have to be sure that you know who holds inventorship in the invention.
Although this question seems straightforward, it becomes quite complicated in the context of an employer-employee relationship. Usually, an employee holds inventorship in the invention as long as the employee conceived of it and reduced it to practice on his own time. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule:
Patent law does allow for more than one person to apply for the same patent. In fact, if more than one person contributes to the invention, patent law requires that each person be named in the application. However, joint inventorship requires both contribution and collaboration:
Each inventor does not have to contribute the same amount or make his contribution at the same time. As one can imagine, this can cause conflicts among inventors, which may be alleviated by defining the invention with precision. Thus, as long as there is contribution and collaboration, each person is a joint inventor and has the right to exercise all of the patent rights.
If you have a question about inventorship and how it pertains to the patent application process, you should consider contacting a patent attorney. An experienced lawyer can explain the complicated patent system to you and can help you to protect your rights.
Last Modified: 06-26-2014 04:11 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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