Denver, CO asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for Colorado

Q: If you have a patent shouldn't the inventors get part of the financial proceeds from the worlwide sales and profits

1 Lawyer Answer
Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: Well, the patent owner gets a limited monopoly for a limited time, from which the patent owner can profit.

But what you are likely asking is what a lot of scientists, engineers, and other employees of large companies are asking: "I worked hard, invented this product that is being sold all over the world for lots of money, but the company just gave me a plaque. Screw that; I want a percentage of the sales."

I am sorry to say, that it does not work that way. A scientist is employed to come up with new inventions, so that the company can patent the inventions, and make money on them. That is the job of the scientist. In exchange, the scientist gets a salary. The scientist does not own the patent, does not get a say what happens to the patent, does not get any money from the patent.

It is akin to say a chef in a restaurant, or a factory worker. The chef does not get to dictate who can buy his food, or what happens to the food that he cooks up. A factory worker does not get an ownership piece in the product that he is manufacturing.

So what can be done? Several thoughts.

(1) Although an inventor working for a large company does not get to own the patent, the company cannot rob him of his inventorship. The inventor's name will be on the patent. The company cannot erase the name of the inventor off the patent for any reason, if they want to patent to be valid. So if the inventor is on the patent for a multibillion dollar invention, the inventor won't get the fortune, but he'll get the fame.

(2) If a product tanks, and the company is no longer interested in the patent, then the inventor may want to approach the company to see if he can buy it off them. Similar to, for example, an old laptop, or an old company vehicle.

(3) There are many undercapitalized companies, such as start ups, that just do not have the resources to pay the employees well. Some will happily promise to give the employee a cut of the sales or profits, in place of a salary.

(4) Finally, there are countries where inventors are entitled to get some percentage (maybe a tiny percentage) of the sales or profits. Germany, for one.

Good luck!

Tim Akpinar agrees with this answer

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