Posted on Friday 13 October 2017 by Cruickshank Intellectual Property

In a world of information and ideas there is a never a shortage of innovative and creative thinkers.

When it comes to inventions, many of those ideas require patent protection to prevent other individuals using and capitalising on the idea. This legal platform allows for exclusive rights to the idea and in turn rewards the owner of the idea for their work.

While this sounds straightforward, when it comes to an employer/employee framework regarding inventions however, the concept of inventing and owning an idea become very different. If not managed correctly it can become problematic which begs the question, who owns the intellectual property (IP) rights for the idea?

Different countries will have certain laws in place to determine employee rights to compensation and govern invention ownership.

What is the law in Ireland?

In the case of Ireland, legislation does not determine ownership of employee inventions, instead it is governed by common law. This common law principle determines that an employer owns the product of his employees work where that work was completed during their employment, unless there is an agreement in place to the contrary. There are also no requirements set out in Irish law which specifies that an employee is entitled to remuneration regarding inventions. When it comes to filing a patent application, Article 17 of the Irish Patents Act 1992, stipulates that the inventor has the right to be named as inventor on a patent application and where the Applicant is not the inventor the Applicant must indicate how they derived the right to the invention.

While no legal provisions exist, often the rules surrounding ownership of inventions are set out in a contract of employment with company terms and guidelines defined. Employment contracts should allocate ownership of employees’ inventions in regard of the organisation.

By having a clear and understandable clause within an employment agreement, it will provide a distinct definition of IP ownership and prevent the risk of any disputes or issues which may arise in the future.

If this is something you would like to discuss with one of our Patent Attorneys or any other IP matter, contact us at post@cruickshank.ie and we will be happy to arrange a meeting.