Who Owns Your New Employee’s Patents?

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The recent decision by the Federal Circuit in Stanford University v. Roche[1] emphasizes how important it is for employers and their counsel to use precise language when drafting clauses governing an employee’s obligation to assign inventions to his or her employer. Stanford University was unable to establish ownership of patents covering inventions developed by an employee even though the employee had signed an agreement containing terms which many would consider more than adequate to protect Stanford’s interests in the inventions. The Stanford case demonstrates how the wrong choice of contractual language can have important and costly consequences, including the loss of valuable patent rights. In this article, we offer some suggestions to help companies and their counsel avoid similar outcomes by carefully managing their employees’ activities with third parties and by carefully drafting assignment provisions in employment agreements.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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