Failure to include the correct inventors on the patent application

I once managed the patent application process for a group of engineers. While working on the patent application, I noticed that each patent formerly filed by the engineers all listed the names of each group member as joint inventors. The Patent Laws provide that if one intentionally lists an individual on a patent application who did not contribute to the invention, he risks putting the patent in jeopardy of being declared invalid. While there is nothing inherently wrong about joint inventors on a single patent, there is something suspicious about a group of engineers being listed on over 100 patents together.

Many inventors are unaware of the importance of listing the correct inventors in the patent application. In fact, an incorrect listing of inventors in the patent application could jeopardize one’s patent rights and expose one to punitive damages in court.

After further research into the matter, I concluded that the group of engineers had a “gentleman’s agreement” which afforded each member the benefit of being listed as a joint inventor on all patents stemming from each group member, regardless of their respective contributions. This way, each inventor could claim inventorship to more patents than he could have if he had only listed his name on inventions he contributed to.

I later interviewed each member to determine the degree to which they contributed to the invention. Upon doing so, I identified the true inventors and informed the rest of the team that they would not be listed as inventors on the patent application. Although the excluded engineers were disappointed, they understood and appreciated someone explaining the law to them so they could avoid this in the future.