La Mesa, CA asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for California

Q: Need to know if any royalty payments are due for any of my dads patents I inherited in 1993 by Inventor Allen C. Thomas

I seen 13 patents on your site stated Allen C. Thomas inventor of ,I own all rights due to inheritance

2 Lawyer Answers

Robert Philip Cogan

  • Patents Lawyer
  • San Diego, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Further facts are needed to address this question. How do you know you inherited the patents? This cannot simply be assumed. Is there a will specifying that this property went to you? Did your father own the patent rights when he died? Who may have used the patent rights and when? Did this all happen too long ago? What prompted this question so many years later?

Peter D. Mlynek

  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: Sorry, but I am pretty sure that there are no royalty payments, or any other payments coming your way.

Firstly, I've found 13 patents listing Allen C. Thomas as an inventor. Given that most of these were filed many years after 1993, I think that most are not associated with your father, but with another Allen C. Thomas, who is listed to reside in Tampa, FL. There appears to be only one patent, D289887, issued in May 1987, to Allen C. Thomas of San Diego, CA, who I presume was your father.

Secondly, any patents that you would have inherited in 1993 have long expired, and are no longer any good. Nobody can collect any payments on any patents from 1993. Patent D289887 likely expired in May 2001. Patents are not like copyrights which last many, many years after the death of the author.

Thirdly, even your father licensed the patent, and he was due payments after his passing in 1993 until 2001, for which you as his heir would have the rights to, there is not much that could be done now, 18 to 26 years later. The statute of limitations on contracts is only a couple of years (probably 4 years in California), so you are way too late.

I wish that I had better news, but I just don't see any circumstances under which you'd get any royalty payments.

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