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I've been working for a company for a year now. About 2 months ago, I had an idea for creating a manifold. My idea has saved the company thousands of dollars in manpower, resources, and time. I was the sole inventor in creating the idea, and implementing it.

I've looked into some things and I can confirm that:

-I have not signed any sort of agreement with my employer.

-No where in my employee handbook does it say that my IP belongs to the company.

-I was not contracted for creating this; I am a full time employee to the company.

I'm not sure if I'm right in believing that I have a valid base for filing a patent. And even if I am right and I do file the patent, and am approved, what then? My company already uses my invention, where would I go then?

Thank you

  • I do not have a definitive answer but I do know that it depends significantly on the state you are in. Please add that to your question. – George White Sep 9 '14 at 19:58
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This does vary from state-to-state. I believe that in most states the invention "belongs" to the employer if you signed that away when first hired or if you were hired to invent or assigned to come up with this particular thing.

Even in cases where there is no agreement and you were not hired to invent, if you did it on the company's time and/or equipment, and/or facilities, the employer may have "shop rights". That means they have the right to royalty-free use of the invention, even if it ends up belonging to you. It is easy to find more information about this on the web.

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You can certainly apply for the patent, but any reasonable interpretation of the situation will demand that it is assigned to your company.

Any work you do for your employer, as an employee, during work time, using the employers equipment and facilities is the employers property.

Now, you may be able to negotiate some kind of reward with your employer, but that's a different story and up to their discretion and your negotiation skills.

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