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Inventorship: Who should be listed as an inventor for a patent?

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Inventorship: Who should be listed as an inventor for a patent?

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In the US especially, patents are granted to inventors. More often than not, that’s more than one person and the ideas themselves are fluid concepts that often evolve through many handoffs from initial conception through implementation and sometimes even throughout patent prosecution, but how do we determine who all should – and is legally required to be – named as an inventor?

In the constitutionally expressed interest of protecting inventors and the conception of their ideas, failure to include the right people can be a death sentence for a patent and grounds for invalidity.

Daniel Wright, Partnership Manager and Patent Strategist here​​ at Aurora, leads a deep dive into the origins of inventorship, breaks down who is and isn’t eligible for inclusion as an inventor, and explains how improper inventorship could result in revoked patent rights.

Podcast: https://patentlystrategic.buzzsprout.com/1734511/9603758-inventorship-who-should-be-listed-as-an-inventor-for-a-patent

Blog post: https://www.aurorapatents.com/blog/new-podcast-inventorship

In the US especially, patents are granted to inventors. More often than not, that’s more than one person and the ideas themselves are fluid concepts that often evolve through many handoffs from initial conception through implementation and sometimes even throughout patent prosecution, but how do we determine who all should – and is legally required to be – named as an inventor?

In the constitutionally expressed interest of protecting inventors and the conception of their ideas, failure to include the right people can be a death sentence for a patent and grounds for invalidity.

Daniel Wright, Partnership Manager and Patent Strategist here​​ at Aurora, leads a deep dive into the origins of inventorship, breaks down who is and isn’t eligible for inclusion as an inventor, and explains how improper inventorship could result in revoked patent rights.

Podcast: https://patentlystrategic.buzzsprout.com/1734511/9603758-inventorship-who-should-be-listed-as-an-inventor-for-a-patent

Blog post: https://www.aurorapatents.com/blog/new-podcast-inventorship

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Inventorship: Who should be listed as an inventor for a patent?

  1. 1. Patently Strategic Musings Inventorship Before the Seeming Irrelevance of the Prior Art Daniel Wright Aurora Consulting LLC March 30, 2021
  2. 2. Inventorship Naming names and ruffling feathers
  3. 3. Inventorship 101 (uh, I mean 116) • US patents issued to the INVENTORS • Contributes to the CONCEPTION • Reduction to practice not necessarily required • Joint Inventors need NOT: • Physically work together at the same time • Make the same type or amount of contribution • Contribute to EVERY claim 35 U.S.C. 101, 115, 116; 37 CFR 1.45; MPEP §2109
  4. 4. Claims Make the Invention • Conception of the invention AS CLAIMED • Inventorship can change as the claims change. • WHY do claims change? • Restriction requirements • Formalities rejections (e.g., §101 and §112) • Prior art rejections (e.g., §102 and §103) • Fundamentally, you must invent OVER the prior art MPEP §602.09, §2109
  5. 5. Being an Inventor vs. Being an Inventor • To be named on a patent application is a distinct standing from the status granted by an issued patent • Details of a prior art analysis are irrelevant
  6. 6. Fictional Example: Whale Hunting • Ishmael and Queequeg are collaborating to develop the ultimate whaling harpoon • Ishmael develops a new grip; Queequeg develops a new spear tip • Claim includes both elements • The USPTO determines the Ishmael’s grip to be obvious over a product in a Bass Pro Shops® brochure • Queequeg’s spear tip is found novel and non-obvious • The case issues with both Ishmael and Queequeg as inventors • i.e., no obligation to remove Ishmael from the patent • What if claimed separately?
  7. 7. Case Law Example 1: Pannu v. Iolab Corp., 155 F.3d 1344 (Fed. Cir. 1998) • Pannu invents a new lens implant and files for a patent • Pannu meets with Link to discuss a license to manufacture • Link suggests an improvement to the lens • Pannu files a CIP that includes the improvement but names only himself as inventor • Iolab Corp. asserts patent invalid for improper inventorship • Link should be the only inventor on the CIP • Pannu’s contribution already prior art due to the offer for sale
  8. 8. Case Law Example 1: Pannu v. Iolab Corp., 155 F.3d 1344 (Fed. Cir. 1998) • Sole inventor? No. Co-inventor? Yes • “During the meeting with Link, Pannu was doing more than simply providing Link with well-known principles or explaining the state of the art” • “Because it is undisputed that the invention was conceived while Link and Pannu were engaged in a collaborative enterprise and it is furthermore undisputed that Pannu conceived significant aspects of the invention, Pannu is certainly at least a co-inventor.” • Inventorship Correction • CIP formalities
  9. 9. Case Law Example 2: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020) • 2018 Nobel laureate Dr. Tasuku Honjo (Ono Pharmaceutical) • Dr. Gordon Freeman and Dr. Clive Wood (Dana-Farber Cancer Inst.) • Antibody-mediate cancer treatments – PD-1 receptor
  10. 10. Case Law Example 2: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020) • Early 1990s – Honjo identifies PD-1 gene and receptor • 1998 – Honjo meets with Ono and Wood; agree to collaborate • 1998 – Freeman independently researching ligands; joins collab. • 1999 – Freeman and Wood file a provisional without Honjo • These aren’t the patents at issue • 2000 –Group publishes journal article • June 2000 – Honjo learns of 1999 provisional. Dana-Farber declines to add him.
  11. 11. Case Law Example 2: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020) • Late 2000 – Honjo stops sharing results • 2002 – Honjo files his own patents without naming Freeman or Wood on subject matter relying mostly on his own group’s experiments. • “It is not without interest that in [Honjo’s] acceptance speech he credited Dr. Freeman as a major collaborator in his work.”
  12. 12. Case Law Example 2: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020) • Ono’s Arguments: • Subject matter is removed from the original collab of Freeman and Wood • Patents were issued over the 1999 filing • The 2000 journal article disclosed Freeman and Wood’s contributions • “Ono urges us to adopt a legal rule that once a contribution is made public, it ‘no longer qualifies as a significant contribution to conception.’ Appellants Br. 39.” (page 10)
  13. 13. Case Law Example 2: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020) • Court sided with Dana-Farber • Contribution to conception is key • “Conception is complete when an idea is definite and permanent enough that a [PHOSITA] could understand the invention” (Page 11) • “Joint inventorship does not depend on whether a claimed invention is novel or nonobvious over a particular researcher’s contribution.” (Page 12)
  14. 14. Case Law Example 2: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. 2020) • Ono has petitioned cert from the Supreme Court asking: “Whether the Federal Circuit erred in adopting a bright-line rule that the novelty and non-obviousness of an invention over alleged contributions that were already in the prior art are ‘not probative’ of whether those alleged contributions were significant to conception”

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