Does a company have any patent rights to a patent their engineer acquires and invents off company time?

Asked on July 18, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, if the engineer invented it off company time and did not use any materials, facilities, equipment, collaboration from co-workers, etc. to invent it, and the patent is not in the line of work the engineer is doing for the company, then no--the company should not have any rights to the patent. (Conversely, if the patent is for basically the same sort of things the engineer does for the company, and/or he used any company resources for it, it should belong to the company, even if invented after work hours, on weekends, etc.)

The above could be broadened contractually--if the engineer signed a contract or agreement that anything he invents belongs to the company, that agreement would be enforceable.

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