A few decades ago I had a great idea, a really novel, lucrative idea about a device, which I can bet is in your home right now.

At the time I shared my invention with my then boyfriend who asked if it was "alright with me if he looked into getting a patent" for it. I said I was okay with his help with taking my ideas forward, because I trusted that if things ever were really lucrative from this joint venture that he would share this with me.

This product ended up earning a Truly Significant Pile of Money. And, as you can probably guess, I never was compensated a penny.

Later he did mention in a few personal letters that it was my invention which resulted in very good profit from the patent and how grateful he was.

-- Now, I have debts, kids in college and, well, I imagine you might guess how I feel.

Is there any kind of legal merit (Intellectual property laws?) available to me now to pursue fair compensation for his patent made on my device which was, 100%, entirely my invention? Even though the patent was created a few decades ago?

Thanks in advance for your help.

  • 1
    I am not a lawyer, but I believe you need to ask one. – Eric S Oct 5 '16 at 20:17

I am a lawyer, and the other poster is correct. You should find an intellectual property attorney and have a conversation.

  • Okay. I will look around for one. Thank you so much. Your advice is appreciated. – Just Wondering Oct 7 '16 at 3:48

When you talk to a lawyer, be sure to ask him to explain to you 1. The law of limitation 2 Equitable concept of delay and laches Also examine what non legal remedies you could persue. Regards Ashok


I can’t be any more definitive than “It depends.” But it’s entirely possible that you can come out ahead. Talk to an IP attorney or two, to find out if you should have been listed as an (or the) Inventor. You may be able to have an initial conversation for free.

It may matter whether you really were “in possession” of the invention, whether you can document that, and whether your documentation would have enabled a “person of ordinary skill in the art” to reduce it to practice. And all kinds of other more esoteric questions.

If the case has merit and the patent owner has deep pockets you may be able to attract patent litigation financing.


Something to consider - Sometimes the person with the original idea is the inventor and people who take it forward from there are co inventors. Sometimes the people who take it from there are just doing normal, non-inventive work to implement the invention. Then they are not co-inventors. On the other hand sometimes the person with the original idea is not an inventor at all becasue they did not have a full picture of the invention that would lead to making it a reality. An explanation of this is at IP watchdog.

Another important issue are the granted claims. If one person has a big idea and explains it to a second person, it may that the second person gets a patent on claims to an important implementation detail of the big idea. The issue for the first person is did they make a conceptual contribution to what was actually claimed?

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