technology invention

Rights to an Invention Created at Work: Employee or Employer?

The company that you work for is responsible for almost all of your work. There are many examples: online content, marketing materials and bank transactions. But what happens when you invent something at work?

Anything you invent outside of your workplace and that you want to patent are your intellectual property. However, rights to this property are less clear in the workplace. What matters in these cases is the type of invention you’ve created. Here’s what you need to know. 

Type 1: Invention of Service

Your employer usually has the right to an invention that is directly related or a result of your work duties. You might have found an effective way to streamline a system, or created a gadget that will help employees with their daily tasks. You can count that your idea was born out of work you have been asked by your employer.

Inventions like this require company resources to be created. Your idea might have been made possible by the use of company machines and computers. Courts will usually rule in favor of the company over the inventor in such cases.

Type 2: No Charge Invention

This kind of invention is opposite to the previous. This scenario is where you created something entirely on your own. This scenario was not created by your employer and therefore you have no right to the intellectual property.

Type 3: Mixed Invention

Here is the tricky part. But what if your invention is not a result of company resources or initiative? Your job does not direct your invention. It does not deal with your work, unlike the free invention. 

This gray area of law can apply even if your employer makes a contribution financially or otherwise. These cases are decided by the courts case-by-case. This makes it crucial to have a lawyer. This holds true especially when employees contract are involved. 

You can co-own the patent, or your employer may own it. Some cases even see an inventor file to reclaim their rights after the patent holder fails to appreciate the inventor’s rights. 

How to do it

If that all sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Blended inventions are not covered by clear laws. This makes it difficult for courts to determine who has full intellectual property rights. Here attorneys can be your best friend. 

If you’ve come up with an invention at work and your employer believes they own the rights to it, you’re allowed to seek legal aid and assert your rights as the creator. That’s where an employment attorney in San Francisco can help you out. 

They’ll work with you to identify what category the invention falls under, how much of the rights you can own, and work to make sure your employer doesn’t steal those rights from you. They can also help you get compensation for your employer’s retaliation against you because you asked a difficult question. Ask a professional if you have any questions. 

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