Newtown, PA asked in Intellectual Property and Patents (Intellectual Property) for Pennsylvania

Q: one of the 2 inventors of an unassigned patent has died. Can the remaining inventor sell the patent?

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

A: First, I am sorry that your co-inventor whom I presume was a friend, has died.

If there are two inventors and there is not any signed agreement to consolidate the ownership rights, then the rights are still divided.

This would get into issues of estate law so you would need to check with an estate lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction. It could be that the remaining rights passed to the spouse or the children of the inventor.

Unless you consolidate the ownership into one person or entity, all you can provide by yourself to a third party is a non-exclusive license to use the invention. You would not need to share the royalties or fees from this license with the family of the other inventor. Conversely, those holding rights from the deceased inventor can provide the same sort of license to others without sharing the proceeds with you.

It is generally a bad idea to have a patent with two inventors where you did not have a written agreement to unify the rights. I am sorry that this has transpired.

Marcos Garciaacosta agrees with this answer

Marcos Garciaacosta
Marcos Garciaacosta

A: Definitely consult with an attorney, negotiate with the estate of the other inventor on how to proceed.

Make sure the patent is still active.

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