Employee Invention Law
Employee invention law governs the relationship between the employee and employer in respect of inventions and proposals for technical improvements resulting from an employment relationship.
Fundamentally, the results of an employee’s work belong to the employer and are compensated in the form of wages. However, if an employee believes that his performance at work has been in the form of a technical innovation that goes beyond his usual activities, then he can disclose this to his employer as a proposal for technical improvement, or, if patent or utility model protection is available for the technical innovation, disclose it as an invention.
This disclosure sets in motion a series of mutual rights and obligations which are defined in employee invention law, for example:
- The employee is obliged to make available to the employer all information about the invention itself and about how it came about. One the one hand, this assists the assessment of the invention itself and its usability e.g. in the company itself; on the other hand, it helps assess the part played by the inventor in the emergence of the invention in relation to that of the company, in order to calculate his remuneration. In addition, the employee must support the employer in the drawing-up of the application for a property right.
- The employer is obliged to file an application for a property right for the disclosed invention if he is making use of it and not releasing it for the employee to use himself and make his own application for it. The employer must inform the employee about the nature and scope of the application for a property right, e.g. pass him copies of the application documents, and offer the employee the application for a property right or the property right if the employer does not wish to pursue this further. In addition, the employer must enable the employee to file applications abroad if the employer does not want to do this himself.
- The employee is entitled to receive appropriate remuneration for his invention; this is generated according to the type of use thereof (e.g. in own product or sale or licensing of the invention to third parties) and the part he has played in the emergence of the invention in relation to the part played by the company.
- The employer is entitled to use the invention, be it in his own company in in-house products or be it through licensing or sale.
So as to regulate the legally defined obligations in a standardized way and on a permanent basis, many companies have developed procedures for this; these are to safeguard compliance with the relevant deadlines on the part of employee and employer, and ensure an effective flow of information.