The nation’s top patent court recently issued a decision showing the pitfalls that can arise in establishing ownership of inventions made by employees. Most valuable biomedical inventions are made by employees of companies and institutions. Most companies and institutions involved in biomedical research have employment agreements with their employees that deal with ownership of inventions produced by employees. One common practice obligates employees to assign inventions to the employer. The recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit shows that such obligations are not always effective in protecting employers’ rights in the inventions of their employees. The practical effect of the decision is to expose a new danger in typical employment agreements and provide a new way to attack what had been assumed to be established patent rights of employers.
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