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Last year, in a meeting my boss (line manager) let us brainstorm on a topic, and I provided my ideas/invention.

I said that the problem is a problem in incremental natural language processing, and the related technique can solve the problem but what we faced was not how to tackle the communication between the agent and the server but how to show the interface to the users using the information the edge device received from the server. It can save response time and show swift and fascinating operations for the user on the fly. (scenarios and details irrelevant to this question are omitted)

But later I found that the exact idea was patented by my boss. My boss filed the patent application himself, claiming he's the inventor, but he may have had listed all my teammates in the patent (meaning that I am not special as all his other subordinates). Last week he said that he will have a colleague realize that, and he had reported "his" patent to his superior, and the superior will support the project.

I thought it is not appropriate, is it?

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  • 3
    Did your boss patent it on his own name or the company name? And what does your contract say about this?
    – Erik
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 9:23
  • 8
    To avoid misinterpretation please clarify what do you mean by "idea was patented by your boss". Did your boss file the patent application himself, claiming he's the inventor and the owner? Did the IP (Intellectual Property) department of your company file the application listing the boss as the sole inventor?
    – Igor G
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 10:18
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    To my knowledge you cannot patent "ideas". You need a detailed description of a working solution. So did you provide all the details or just an idea?
    – Chris
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 11:14
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    @Weiterbildung, I edited your question to include that clarification of boss's actions. The fact that the boss claimed the ownership of the patent is really surprising. He effectively screwed the company, and your legal department would likely want a word or two with him. Do they (legal dept or IP dept) know about that patent?
    – Igor G
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 13:49
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    I don't think much can be said here without knowing OP's legislation - the extent to which IP rights can be signed over e.g. in the employment contract varies a lot between countries.
    – cbeleites
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:03

4 Answers 4

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Everyone who was part of the invention should be named on the patent.

To be part of the patent you must be able to prove you helped in creating part of the implementation that is new/novel.

Just making suggestions about existing technologies, research and/or defining the problem to solve are not valid reasons for being marked as an inventor.

Incorrectly marking the inventors can invalidate a patent. In some cases fines and jail time for inventors/company.

Talk to your IP legal team to see if you should be on the disclosure.

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You were paid to come up with an invention for the company. Check your contract, I'm pretty sure a clause will be contained stating that you don't have ownership rights for work you do during you employment with the company.

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  • I know I don't own it but 1) if I patented it I will be rewarded by the company and the reputation would also be mine; 2) such behavior hurts fair competition and cooperation and trust.
    – Lerner
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 10:05
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    You're right, patent ownership is always transferred to the company. But inventorship (list of inventors on the patent) isn't. I guess the OP asked about the latter, but let's wait for him to clarify.
    – Igor G
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 10:22
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    It’s illegal to not put the correct inventors on a patent, even if the company owns the patent. Commented May 22, 2021 at 12:17
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    The OP's name sounds German and this answer may not be applicable there I got one patent in Germany and actually got paid for it, but that's a long time ago.
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 13:32
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    @Hilmar: In Germany, how much (including whether) there will be payments depends a lot on how much "invention work" the employment contract covers (and on whether the invention later on becomes a block buster - but the question seems to be earlier on in the life cycle of the invention). Inventorship would legally stay with OP in Germany, though.
    – cbeleites
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:06
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It is pretty much the benefit of leadership to be added to a patent. One application, that I was a part of, named my two bosses and a second engineer who helped with the form factor of the product. They did nothing innovative.

The innovation was in the software and its controls which was 100% me. If anything, an electronic tech helped me more than any other person who was named on the patent and he was not named.

In the end, it did not matter. I get to claim the patent on my resume. You can describe your roll in the patent applications in future job interviews.

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In short, it depends, however if the idea was generated in the course of your employment and was incidental to your role then its probably fair and reasonable.

If the idea was nothing to do with your job and was created outside of work and it wasnt to do with work, then its not right.

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