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The Inventor Who Died and Other Mysteries - Resolved

By Ernest W. Grumbles III and J.R. Maddox

I. Introduction

Behind every burst of technical innovation is a human inventor – someone who claims to have discovered some new useful product or process.  The frailties of human patent drafters, sometimes the inventors themselves, are the subject of frequent debate in Markman hearings.  While patents may perish under scrutiny of the prior art, or be narrowed to the point of inconsequence, what of the inventors themselves?  Can problems with the inventors themselves vitiate patent rights?

For example, what if an inventor perishes, loses mental capacity or goes missing before filing for a patent?  Are intangible property rights lost along with the body and mind of the inventor?  What about an inventor who refuses to sign a patent application?  Or an inventor who lays false or overstated claim to an invention to the detriment of the true inventor?  This last issue is especially troubling in that fraudulent inventorship can bar enforcement of a patent.

This article considers these various inventor problems, offers some practical solutions to minimize their occurrence and previews some potential legislation that may eliminate a few of the problems altogether.

II Problem Inventors

A. The Inventor Who Dies.

Imagine that TechnoCorp is in the final stages of development of a groundbreaking new nano-tech ...

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