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back to article Inventor only entitled to share of employer's actual patent earnings

The inventor of a medical device is entitled to a 'fair share' of the actual benefit earned from that device by his employer, the Court of Appeal has ruled. An inventor cannot complain if his employer did not exploit the invention well or at all, it said. Professor Ian Shanks invented a device which drew precise amounts of …

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Silver badge
WTF?

"Unilever (the Group) only in fact made £23m."

I'd like to see the size of the accounting department that pulled off that feat. Probably as big as the Cayman Islands themselves.

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Err...

They only made £23m from that invention, Unilever Group may have made much more, but it's irrelevant to the case.

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FAIL

Oops

Think I need to learn how to skim read articles better.

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Paris Hilton

made = revenue or profit ?

And is the inventor willing to share the loss, if there was one ? See, no risk, no reward.

Paris, she risques.

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imaginary benefit?

yeah i had this great idea for a website called facebook, but my employer failed to implement it , so they owe me a billion.

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With the same logic,

Imagine the taxman says: "your company sold its software at 100$ apiece, but due to its uniqueness the market would have been prepared to pay upto 250$ apiece, therefore we charge you VAT at 21% of that higher number (arrived at by digital-rectal manipulation), so please give 52$ per sale in taxes." That kite won't fly.

And conversely, if you have a minor invention but your company succeeds in completely overselling licences to that useless thing, you won't get any royalties presumably?

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FAIL

Did you patent it!

It can only work if you have a patent. An idea is just that and worth nothing. If you did patent it via your company then get yourself a patent troll (lawyer) and see what you and your company can get.

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Common sense ruling?

If you could sue for 'potential' earnings rather than actual learnings, you would get all sorts of insane court cases arguing that some pointless, rubbish invention should've sold millions rather than a handful of units.

It would bankrupt countless small companies and discourage any big companies from inventing or producing innovative products.

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Happy

Well indeed

"you would get all sorts of insane court cases"

And the patent cases we do see are different because?

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ironically

but slightly off topic,

this can be taken into account in divorce proceedings when working out settlements.

which is a bit bloody ludicrous

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Inventor's rights

I find the basic principle quite odd. If you are an employee, and aren't involved in the risk involved in paying for the development, testing or even funding your own time, then it strikes me that this is an odd right to have in the first place. Arguably, if the companies want to promoite inventiveness in their workforce, then they can put such conditions for profit sharing in their terms and conditions of employment. Indeed good companies have had such suggestion schemes for a long time and it's easily possible to add further payment schemes which promote this.

Basically, if you want to benefit from a state-granted monopoly, then do the entrepreneurial thing, if necessary involving a business partner to share the risk. Personally I think the whole aread of IPRs has been going in the wrong direction for many years (with the US showing the pitfalls of an overly indulgent system).

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Silver badge
Go

True but...

Its true what you say, when there are provisions within a company to allow some sort of bonus for making the company significant profits on new inventions. But many companies dont have these provisions and so inventors rights are the only way to guarantee some reward for bringing brilliant ideas to the table.

I see the inventors rights laws as often the only way a person can get something back from the company that they put into, because inventions are almost never part of a persons work. The majority of peoples work revolves around using the same tools to do the same thing or perhaps instigating an evolutionary step in the development of something to improve efficiency or the like. These sorts of things dont deserve a reward (and indeed would never be patentable). there our bread and butter, so to speak. But when a person does come up with an idea that is revolutionary (and patentable), that will save time, money, resources, etc. they deserve to be rewarded for it.

Or maybe ive just personally been screwed by too many companies to not want my share back when i bring something massive to the table...

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Re: True but

>I see the inventors rights laws as often the only way a person can get something back from the company that they put into...

and

>they deserve to be rewarded for it.

Do you mean apart from a salary?

Should the majority of employees who don't invent anything of marketable value be required to repay their salary?

Or maybe the inventor should repay the cost of use of laboratory or other company equipment and resources.

If I commission a painting then the end result belongs to me no matter how much artisitic effort the artist put in. It should be the same for anything an employer has paid an employee to do. Good companies may offer incentives such as a share of the profits but if they don't or you are not content with your salary then you could always go elsewhere if you are confident enough that anyone else would want your skills.

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Stop

Re Re: True but

So you are saying someone who comes into work and does what they are employed to do on a day to day basis PLUS over and above this invents something for the company deserves no more than someone who comes in and just does their day to day?

You are arguing two different points as the same thing in the next part, According to your first point "Do you mean apart from a salary?" implies that the salary covers being inventive and providing the company something marketable but at the same time your next point implies that someone who isn't inventive shouldn't lose anything either...

I guess you are a jobsworth. Who just comes in plods through your day to day and thinks that anyone seeking to improve or aid the company they work for outside their employment agreement deserves what they get, sod all.

Regarding this article, however, what a chancer, yeah sure $1bn, perhaps a different story if he had provided this $1bn marketing strategy to Unilever when he unveiled his invention to them and it was actually a realistic marketing strategy... I somewhat doubt that though.

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FAIL

@Dan55

The £23m was based on the patent in question not for the whole group.

"Unilever said that it earned £23m in licensing fees from the invention"

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Hmm

Maybe he'd have more success if he became part of the music industry, their demands of the people they sue seem to really take into account imaginary money based on all the people who didn't buy their albums. "You owe us a million billion because you stole this, and therefore in the future 11 billion people would never buy it!"

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Paris Hilton

Oh Yeah?

Unilever aren't dumb. Certainly they aren't dumb enough to collect £23M on something really worth £1Bn. Also, I don't see why the inventor has an equitable claim. Unilever paid him a salary, didn't they? On the rare occasions when I did well on a deal the other party always wanted to share my good fortune. I used to tell them that they were welcome if they also shared my losses. They never wanted to.

Paris came to mind when I wrote the first two sentences. Must have been the enormous sums of money that I mentioned.

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Anonymous Coward

It

would be interesting to have knowledge of who they licenced it to.

Maybe unilever (africa)(plc)

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It's the law

The inventor has an equitable claim, a fair share, because the law says so. Likewise the patent-holding company owns exclusive rights to use the invention because the law says so. Sure, you can void either or both. Change the law.

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Unhappy

So nice ...

... to see so many people standing up and supporting the individual against the company.

Where's the facepalm icon?

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Jos
Happy

Obligatory xkcd entry

http://xkcd.com/827/

is all :-)

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WTF?

more notes in todays guardian.

apparently unilever at one point agreed to 'part of the 23million' , they apparently sold licenses for flat fees without any royalties, they changed their minds in 2004 and said '23million isnt a lot of money for a multinational so you dont get anything' which is why i guess the lawyers hit back with 'well if you'd done your job, you'd have had money'.

unilever seem also to have decided that actually since it was a subsiduary, that the subsiduary made nothing.. but the judge threw that out..

what a waste of time and effort, pay up and stop paying lawyers, I guess its about setting a precedent, but do you really want to set the precedent that 'never help or work for unilever' for uber-talented inventors ?

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