Q: How do I get my name attached to an existing patent?

I see a patent was granted to members of my team and I was not included as I left the company before the application was filed. I have documentation (lots) to back up my argument to be included on this patent.

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

A: This is a very common problem. I presume that you want to have your name on the patent as one of the co-inventors so that you can put it on your resume/CV, and not get an ownership stake in the patent.

If you really have a good argument to be listed as a co-inventor, reach out to the attorney of record. Attorneys want to make sure that the patent that they have prosecuted is valid and enforceable. If you contact the attorney, and the attorney ignores it, and then the patent is litigated and the patent is found to be invalid because the patent didn't include your name on it, the client will go after its lawyer. It is in the attorney's interest to interview you, look at the evidence, and determine if you really are a co-inventor under US law, and add you to the patent.

You should review your separation agreement and any agreements that you signed when you first got hired, which likely state that you are obligated to cooperate with the company in obtaining patents. The letter to the attorney should be something along the lines: "Hey, I think that you are the attorney representing my former employer; according to my separation package, I am obligated to help the company get valid patents; I noticed that a patent was issued on a project that I was a co-inventor on, but my name is not listed, thus likely making the patent unenforceable; I did the following 5 things on the project, and more; I am not interested in the ownership of the patent, I just want my name on it as a co-inventor for professional reasons; I am available for an in-depth interview; can you please get in touch with me to discuss this further?"

The above should work almost all of the time. Either the attorney will determine whether you really are a co-inventor or not.

In case the above does not work, and you are comfortable spending your own money on an attorney, hire a patent attorney, have him do an analysis of your contribution to the invention as defined by the claims, and let him handle it.

If you do not want to get a lawyer and get into an expensive fight, you may want to place a letter to the file, stating that you believe that you too are a co-inventor. This won't make the Patent Office add your name to the list of inventors, but it will let the opposing side during any litigation know that the patent is likely unenforceable and they'll contact you. If the prosecuting attorney sees it, he'll likely contact you the take care of this problem.

Good luck!

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