The Myth of the Sole Inventor

I want to give a big thumbs-up to Mark Lemley’s new draft article (forthcoming in Michigan), which you can find here. I think this is going to become a seminal paper for patent scholars.

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    The areas for future research at pp. 103-104 are good points. But if the paper had been written after such research, e.g. speaking with people in industry, rather than before, its insights would seem much less earth-shaking or novel. While this paper might be seminal in that it wakes up scholars, it’s one more example of how IP academics are “discovering” things known to practitioners and businesspeople for decades. Another practical tip: when ML notes that “Most license agreements I have seen don‘t have provisions for the ongoing disclosure of know-how,” (@83) that could be because the transfer of know-how is covered in a separate consulting agreement. While it may vary form industry to industry, the large companies I worked at never in-licensed patents without know-how transfer unless the license was purely defensive. And I always documented that transfer separately. BTW, for more historical examples of collective inventorship see John Lienhard’s How Invention Begins (OUP 2006), not cited in this paper.

  2. For a brief version of why the “sole inventor” (aka starving genius) idea is a myth, here’s part of Richard Stallman’s speech on the dangers of software patents:

  3. RA says:

    The suggestion that the sole inventor is a myth is specious. However, there should be an accomodation for “simultaneous” inspiration.