Omaha, NE asked in Patents (Intellectual Property) for Nebraska

Q: Does an employee that invents a product for an employer have any patent rights?

Approx. twenty years ago my father, xxx, invented the multi-bevel needle for Becton-Dickinson. He worked there for 37 years & has since retired. They named him the "Founding Father of the Five-Bevel Needle". All he received for this was a satin jacket with this embroidered on it. His name is on the patent, but he's always believed that he has no patent rights, as they told him so. Although, it revolutionized the industry & the company has made billions in profit from it. I've always wondered about this & I came across his name on the JUSTIA website which prompted me to raise the question.

1 Lawyer Answer
Kevin E. Flynn
PREMIUM
Kevin E. Flynn
Answered
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC

A: Congratulations to your father for making a real contribution to an important medical device.

As a general rule, when you are paid to invent, then company expects that the fruits of your work belong to the company. Normally, you sign agreements or consent to company policies as a part of the hiring process. Some companies give a small cash award or other recognition but they are not required to do so.

Now the issue is different if you are not paid to invent. It is possible that a secretary or other employee may not be expected to assign their invention. So I cannot comment on specifics.

I can say as a patent attorney, that most patents that I submit have contributions from inventors that were paid to invent. They assign over their rights and the company owns the rights. They do not get royalties from the patents.

If you want to own your patent rights, then you need to start your own company and fund your own research.

This is not the answer you were looking to hear. But this is a starting point. I hope that BD treated your father like royalty if he made such a significant contribution to BD.

Regards,

Kevin E Flynn

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