Patents provide their owner with the legal right to prevent other parties from using, selling or making an invention for a set period of time, making them a valuable form of protection for inventors.
However, not all inventions can be traced to the idea of one individual; some inventions are the result of a group effort, and that can make it more complicated to determine who receives the patent. Here is a look at who can apply for a patent under the law and how inventors can get assistance with the process.
An Inventor Or Their Employer
In some cases, it may be immediately clear who has the right to obtain a patent. If the invention was created and developed by a single person operating independently, they are entitled to apply for the patent, unless they have agreed in a contract to assign their rights to another party.
However, the situation is different when someone makes an invention as part of their role as an employee of a business. In these cases, the company typically reserves the right to apply for the patent. In the United States, however, only natural persons are allowed to apply for a patent.
For this reason, employees often have clauses in their employment contract stating that they will assign their patent rights to the company. Therefore, even though the patent filing is carried out on behalf of the employee, the rights are immediately assigned to the company.
It is interesting to note that most countries require the employee’s activities to be related to the invention in some way in order for the company to own the patent. This means that if a groundskeeper at a pharmaceutical company invents a new medicine, their company will not automatically be given the patent rights to it. However, should the same medicine be invented by a researcher at the pharmaceutical firm, their company would automatically own the patent rights to it.
When it comes to compensation, the company may be required to reimburse the inventor for the invention and the patent rights to it, unless their salary has been deemed sufficient for an inventor.
First To Invent
Most countries use the “first file” principle, which means that the first individual to file a patent application for an invention will be the party entitled to receive the patent, even if another party invented it first but applied for the patent later. In the U.S, however, the “first to invent” principle applies.
This means that in the aforementioned scenario, the earlier inventor would theoretically be able to obtain the patent and have the application that was filed before theirs moved aside. In practice, however, it is extremely difficult for an inventor to prove that they made a specific invention earlier than another party. Therefore, it almost always works out that the first person to file for a patent for a specific invention is ultimately deemed to be the first to invent it as well.
Can You Obtain A Patent On Your Own?
If you believe you have the legal right to obtain a patent for a certain invention, you may be wondering if it is possible to obtain it on your own.
It is technically possible to get your own patent by filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). First, you should ensure the invention qualifies for a patent and then complete the application thoroughly, describing every aspect of the invention in detail.
Federal law requires the patent examiners working for the USPTO to help inventors who apply for patents without a lawyer, but many people still struggle to understand the rules of the USPTO which are known for being complex and difficult to follow. If a patent is complex or raises legal issues, it is best to work with a lawyer to protect your interests.
Working With A Patent Attorney
A patent attorney is a valuable resource for an inventor because they have significant education and knowledge in technical subjects and typically possess a background in science or engineering. They are allowed to practice at the USPTO and defend patents in court. In addition to advising inventors on matters related to contracts, they can work on trials that involve patents and trademarks.
Patent attorneys possess the experience necessary to guide inventors through the patent application procedure. They can assess the invention, advise and can carry out a thorough patent search to ensure the invention has not already been patented, which can save significant time and expense. They will also be able to complete the application ensuring all application information is correct. In some cases, they may even be required to negotiate with the patent office on behalf of the inventor.
Request A Consultation With The Patent and Intellectual Property Law Firm
As a full-service patent and intellectual property law firm in Washington, D.C., the attorneys at Metrolex IP Law Group can assist with the patent application process. Contact us today by calling (202) 979-9784 or schedule a consultation online to speak with a patent attorney.