What would you do if your original idea was stolen by another person or group? But before you answer the question, you have to answer another question, “Do you legally own the patent rights over the product, device or item?”
Granted by the USPTO
Everybody has the right to create things. But keep in mind that merely creating a thing doesn’t confer legal rights including ownership over it, even when others have profited from it. You must actually have a valid patent over the subject matter, whether it’s a process or a product.
Patents are rights of ownership granted by the United States government, specifically the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to inventors. The patents are intended to exclude others from making, using, and selling, even importing, the particular inventions without the inventors’ express permission. In case of infringement, the aggrieved inventor can file an infringement lawsuit.
If you haven’t submitted your patent application or you haven’t been granted a full patent for the subject matter, then you will likely not be considered as its legal and rightful owner. You can, however, apply for a provisional patent but even it has its limitations so we suggest getting a full patent over your invention.
Inventorship and Ownership Are Different
There are also instances that the inventor and original holder of the patent isn’t considered as the owner of the patent. This is because the concepts of inventorship and ownership are different under patent law.
You, the inventor, may be listed on the patent application filed with the USPTO but you may not be considered as its current valid owner. You may have relinquished your rights over it, a case that can happen when you work for a company and you created the invention while you were its employee at the time. In this case, you cannot sue for patent infringement since the patent is usually owned by the company.
If you were directly paid by another person or group to create an original invention, you may or may not own the resulting patent. You have to double check the agreement before signing it, especially if you want to own the patent while the other party has certain legal rights over the resulting product.
And then there’s the matter of being a solo inventor or a joint inventor of a patented idea or thing. If you came up with the idea or created the product completely on your own, then you are considered as a solo inventor. You shouldn’t be anybody’s employee, too.
If the idea or thing was created by two or more people, then they are joint owners of the patent. The names of all the inventors can be listed on the patent application and, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, every inventor own a pro-rated and undivided interest in the invention.