Who Owns Your Invention?
We’d all like to think that everything we create should belong to us, but that isn’t always the case. There are many factors that go into determining who the owner of a patent is and it is something that needs to be carefully considered. If a person is a co-owner of your invention, they have as much right to make, use and sell the invention as you do. Someone may be deemed to be a co-owner by virtue of being a co-inventor or due to express or even implied agreements between parties.
So how do you know if someone is your co-inventor? An inventor is a person who makes a contribution to the inventive concept of the invention. In other words, it is a person who has an idea and/or helps to reduce the invention to a practical purpose. If you are unable to make the invention work and another person provides you with a key feature, they would be considered to be a co-inventor. On the other hand, if you have figured out how to make your invention work and someone proposes a change that makes it more aesthetically pleasing but does not change the way the invention works, it is unlikely that they would be considered as a co-inventor. It is, therefore, important to discuss ownership of any proposed patent prior to working with other people. A simple assignment of rights from the inventors can prevent issues later on. Your Patent Agent can help you with this.
It is also important to note that simply because you invented something does not mean that you will be the owner of the patent. Employee agreements and various contracts can have an effect on the ownership of a patent.