Q: I left a company. They can regist a patent, where I am as inventor, in USA without my permission?

I left a company.

Now, i see that they register a patent in USA, after I left the company. I never give any permission to register the patent in US territory.They can regist a patent, where I am as inventor, in USA without my permission?

2 Lawyer Answers
Kevin E. Flynn
Kevin E. Flynn
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Chapel Hill, NC

A: If you were employed to invent things, then yes.

They can file without your signature if you were under an obligation to assign your rights. They have to jump through some hoops. My memory is that they need to reach out to get your signature but can proceed if you refuse. I have not been down this path in a long time.

There are lots of details and nuances. You should consult an attorney to work through whether filing a patent application without your permission is appropriate.

Peter D. Mlynek
Peter D. Mlynek
Answered
  • Patents Lawyer
  • Moorestown, NJ

A: This is a very common question.

A scientist or an engineer works for a company to invent and develop new products that will make money for the company. The scientist/engineer invents, and the company pays the scientist/engineer for the work, just like any other worker. The product of the work belongs to the company. Just like when a chef in a restaurant is paid to make meals for the customers does not get to keep the meals, or just like a factory worker makes toasters does not get to keep the toasters, so too a scientist/engineer does not get to keep the fruits of his labor. Just like the restaurant does not need to get the chef's permission to serve the meal or the factory does not need a permission to sell the toasters, so too the company does not need a permission to use the invention of the scientist/engineer as it sees fit. What would be the point of employing a worker if the worker would just to keep the product of his work?

The good news for the scientist/engineer is that although the company gets to keep the patent, the company cannot keep the inventor from getting credit for it. The inventor's name will always be associated with the patent. The inventor will be able to put it down on his resume, even if the company and the inventor don't like each other.

There are also exceptions. If someone is flipping burgers for living and during the evenings and weekends he creates a new electronic circuits, then the invention will likely be his and not belong to the burger stand.

Also, if the scientist/engineer invented something prior to being employed by the company, the invention would likely not belong to company, just like a toasters or meals made for old employers would not belong to new employers.

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