Compensating employee inventors

By Bernhard Schörghuber, Rainer Schultes, Anja Lunze, Dr Manja Epping and Paul England

In the life sciences industry, highly qualified and skilled people are employed in the research and development of new drug candidates and other advancements associated with therapy. The results of such work will often be inventions that the employer can patent and directly commercialise, benefiting from the exclusivity the patent allows, or that contribute to the development of a marketable product. The question therefore often arises whether the employed inventor is able to share in the benefits derived from the patenting of their work and, if so, how is this benefit determined. The rules on this area diverge widely between different countries. Here we explain the rules in Austria, Germany and the UK.

As will be seen, the protection of the rights of employed inventors is an immediate and detailed concern of the Austrian Patent Law.

As a general rule, the inventor is the person entitled to the grant of a patent, even if the invention was made while the inventor was employed. But employer and employee can agree on different terms. In this case, the employer is the one entitled to the grant of a patent. In return, the employer has to compensate the employee for the invention…

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