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Patents and inventors: 3 things to know

May 12, 2020 | Patent Law

When people think of inventors, they often imagine some version of a person in a lab or on the computer working to come up with ideas for new products. However, inventorship can take various forms.

Defining who is and is not an inventor in the eyes of the law can be crucial when it comes to protecting an invention. Below, we explain some important distinctions that could help you better understand whether you (or someone else) is legally an inventor.

An inventor is a human

It may seem unusual to specify this, but inventors are humans. Such was the ruling recently in a case involving artificial intelligence (AI) systems and patents.

According to reports, the Artificial Inventor Project was seeking patents for two inventions created by AI. In those patents, the group wanted to list the AI as the inventor. However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that because the law refers to inventors using pronouns referring to humans, non-natural persons cannot be named as inventors.

Inventions can have multiple inventors

Inventions can be the result of one person’s work and ideas, but they can also stem from two or more people. As such, multiple people can be co-inventors or an inventorship in a patent.

Identifying all parties involved in an invention can be a complicated process, as people can misunderstand what the requirements are for a person to be an inventor. Inventorship will depend on many aspects, including the type and extent of a person’s contributions. In general, though, people involved with the idea and work to create the invention may be listed as an inventor.

Inventorship can change

The direction of an invention can change. And sometimes, a final version of an invention does not reflect the ideas or work of parties involved in the earlier development stages. In other situations, parties are overlooked or left off patent claims.

When an inventor is wrongfully included or left off a patent, there can be many unfortunate consequences, including the unenforceability of the patent.

Inventorship can be far more complicated than people realize, particularly when there is more than one inventor. Under such circumstances, legal guidance can help individuals and businesses protect themselves and their rights over an invention.

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