If an inventor and co-inventors are related to a certain patent, who control's the rights our anything related to the invention? The inventors or the co-inventors?

I want to understand the position/power co-inventors have to a certain invention. And the economical value/stake who has the rights towards them only the inventor? Is there such a thing called the original-inventor the person who started the invention and did most of the work, do they surpass the co-inventor's position?

1 Answer 1


All co-inventors begin with equal rights to the patent.

  1. All inventors are co-inventors. As far as the patent office and courts are concerned, all inventors have equal rights.
  2. There is no 'original-inventor' in any given patent. A particular innovation may give rise to multiple patents, and the original-inventor may be sole inventor on some and co-inventor on others, in which case they would have more overall control while the solely-owned patents are in force.
  3. All co-inventors have equal rights to license the patent UNLESS some or all co-inventors assign their rights to another party. In other words, if you and your friend are co-inventors, you can sell a license to Company ABC to use the patented invention, and your friend can sell a license to Company XYZ (or make it himself). Both licenses/uses are EQUALLY valid. You cannot sue XYZ for infringement, and your friend can't sue ABC. HOWEVER, you and your friend probably will have a harder time licensing the patent or getting a valuable license fee from any company BECAUSE you WON'T be able to grant an exclusive license.
  4. Any assignees (persons/entities who are assigned a co-inventors ownership interest in the patent) exercise control according to the percentage of the patent rights they aquire.
  5. The actual situation can vary greatly - e.g. if you hired a friend as an employee AND had an invention disclosure/transfer agreement, your friend would be obligated to assign his right in the patent to you, and you would then be in full control. If you worked on it together without such a relationship, you could possibly buy his right in the patent and have him assign you his rights. Or you could form a partnership or LLC or Corp or ... and assign both your rights to the new company.

FINALLY, the only way to truly understand the ramifications for any given situation is to contact a patent attorney. I have not and cannot give legal advice, only share the rules as explained on the USPTO website and in the US code.

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