Who is an inventor or, more specifically, a co-inventor? The law provides that “each inventor must contribute to the joint arrival at a definite and permanent idea of the invention as it will be used in practice.” Inventors A and B had jointly developed a belief that, under certain circumstances, stem cells would transdifferentiate into various other types of cells (the nauseating details are unnecessary). They were not, however, “scientifically certain” of their theory and lacked sufficient evidence to support a patent on their invention. Along comes Mr. C, who experimentally confirmed the “highly speculative” beliefs of A and B.
Is C a co-inventor? NO. (University of Pittsburgh v. Marc Hendrick) Confirmation of the prior work of others is not the type of activity that creates a right of inventorship. Inventorship revolves around “conception” and “necessarily turns on the inventor’s ability to describe the invention.” A and B had described their invention sufficiently to enable others to practice it before C appeared on the scene. Therefore, C was not a co-inventor.
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: Inventorship can be a tricky legal question. Consult your patent professional as to the inventorship rights of anyone involved.