Why Identifying the Invention Matters More Than Identifying the Inventor
The underlying purposes of patent law are best served when the invention has precedence over the inventor.
The primary goal of patent law is to protect and incentivize innovation by granting inventors exclusive rights to their creations for a specific period. While the identification of the inventor is essential in assigning these rights, the emphasis of patent law is placed on the invention itself. This article will explore why the identification of the invention takes precedence over the identification of the inventor in the realm of patent law.
The Importance of the Invention
1. Assessing Novelty and Non-obviousness
A critical aspect of patent law is determining whether an invention meets the criteria for patentability. An invention must be novel, non-obvious, and useful to be eligible for patent protection. By focusing on the invention, patent law ensures that only truly innovative ideas are granted protection, fostering a competitive environment that rewards creativity and drives technological advancement. In the NZ patents Act 2013 the word “invention” occurs 289 times compared to the measly 32 occurrences of the word “inventor”.
2. Defining the Scope of Protection
The identification of the invention is essential in delineating the scope of protection granted by a patent. A well-defined invention allows the patent office, competitors, and other stakeholders to understand the precise boundaries of the exclusive rights granted to the patent holder. This clarity is crucial in preventing infringement disputes and fostering a transparent and fair competitive landscape.
3. Encouraging Disclosure of Information
Patent law aims to strike a balance between rewarding inventors and promoting the dissemination of knowledge. By granting inventors exclusive rights to their inventions, patent law incentivizes them to publicly disclose the details of their creations. This disclosure allows others to learn from, build upon, and improve existing technologies. Focusing on the invention ensures that the knowledge it embodies is shared and contributes to society's collective intellectual wealth.
The Role of the Inventor
While the identification of the inventor is essential in assigning patent rights, it is ultimately secondary to the identification of the invention itself. The inventor's role in patent law is primarily to:
A. Establish Ownership
Identifying the inventor (whether human or not) is crucial in determining who holds the exclusive rights to the invention. Today patent statutes have shifted from granting the patent only to a human inventor to a focus on the “(Legal) Person entitled to Grant” as most patents are granted to corporate entities not individuals. Properly attributing ownership ensures that the right inventors or entities are rewarded for their creative efforts, encouraging further innovation.
B. Resolve Disputes
In cases where multiple parties claim to have independently devised the same invention, the identification of the inventor can help resolve potential disputes. However, it is still the invention itself, rather than the identity of the inventor, that forms the crux of these disputes.
The focus of patent law on the invention, rather than the inventor, reflects the primary objective of fostering innovation and promoting the dissemination of knowledge. By emphasizing the identification of the invention, patent law ensures that only truly novel and inventive ideas receive protection, while also providing a clear scope of protection and encouraging the disclosure of valuable information. While the identification of the inventor remains important for assigning patent rights and resolving disputes, it is the invention itself that serves as the cornerstone of the patent system.
Author: Jim Piper