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Lets think of the following hypothetical situation,

Bob works in a company named P-House. He submitted a patentable idea to P-House in a template document (in private official meeting). P-House rejects his idea but neither company nor Bob himself reveals the idea in public for next 2 years. Bob resigns and joins in another Company and suddenly finds the exact same idea that he proposed to P-House has been submitted to USPTO with different inventor and P-House as assignee. Bob has no evidence to prove he is the sole inventor because all the evidences are kept secret by P-House and they wont allow accessing those evidences.

In such situation, is there any legal action Bob can do to get his inventionship back? Or there is no hope?

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  • In this hypothetical did bob sign an employee agreement upon being hired by P-House? If so he probably signed his rights to own his invention.
    – George White
    Jul 5 at 7:58
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    I am not a lawyer, but Bob probably has no ownership rights to the invention as he was an employee of P-House. So the best he could get would be the enjoyment of seeing his name listed as an inventor. He could threaten to tell the USPTO about his inventorship which could gum up the process for P-House.
    – Eric S
    Jul 5 at 15:26
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    @GeorgeWhite yes he did sign. But I am confused because according to US law, “only those who have made independent, conceptual contributions to an invention are inventors.” Jul 5 at 18:10
  • @EricS My question was about inventorship not about the ownership. What I understand if Bob already signed to P-House than ownership may be assigned to P-House but can they change the inventorship? Correct me if my understanding is wrong. Jul 5 at 18:14
  • It's important to keep in mind that "ideas" are not what is patented, and that it is not uncommon for a person to have an "idea" which they've not embodied, and for someone else to come along, do the embodiment, and then receive the patent. I've worked with potential inventors who had "ideas" and made sure they came up with at least one claim solely so they could appear as a co-inventor. Jul 29 at 17:56

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I am not a lawyer so this is not legal advice. It is possible that someone else at "P-House" invented exactly the same thing as Bob did after Bob left, but is seems unlikely. Bob could contact, P-House and remind them of the invention template he submitted and request they edit the inventorship on the application. I believe Bob can challenge the application based on inventorship. While he may not have documentation, P-House should and should Bob sue them and they would likely have to cough it up. The point Bob should make is that Bob isn't demanding money, just the acknowledgment of as the inventor. This costs P-House nothing where as not listing Bob as the inventor potentially risks obtaining a patent and at least extra legal costs dealing with the USPTO.

Like many legal matters, discussing this with an actual patent attorney is advised. I think it likely that a letter to P-House from a lawyer would provide enough inducement to them to do the right thing.

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