Contract Agreements in the Intellectual Property (IP) Field

A post from our student blogger Sarah Goodman

Mr. Todd A. Dawson, J.D., the owner and president of Todd Dawson Consulting LLC in Warsaw, Indiana, recently visited our MSPL class and presented a guest lecture on intellectual property contracts and other licensing matters. A contract is a legal document that establishes an agreement that is enforceable by law. I learned about some different forms of patent agreements and types of responsibilities a patent agent might have concerning these agreements when working with patent attorneys.

An assignment contract is used for the complete and permanent transfer of all rights to specifically identified intellectual property from the inventor(s) to an assignee. The assignee can be an individual but is often an organization such as a company or university. This form of contract is analogous to a sale of property. An assignment does not contain limitations on how long or under what conditions the assignee can use the intellectual property rights. After assignment, the inventor does not retain any rights to the intellectual property.

A license contract is used to allow another entity to use or develop specific intellectual property. This form of contract is analogous to renting property. A license contract includes specified conditions of use of the intellectual property for a defined period of time. A license may be exclusive, meaning no other party can obtain a license to the intellectual property, non-exclusive, meaning more than one party can obtain a license, or co-exclusive, identifying that only certain specific parties can obtain a license. During the licensing period, the inventor retains ownership of the patent.

Patent agents may have responsibilities concerning contracts especially when working with patent attorneys. These responsibilities can include ensuring that the identified parties are accurate, ensuring that the assignor is the registered owner of the intellectual property, checking employment agreements, and ensuring that the contract language is clear and understandable.

Inventors usually decide to assign or license intellectual property for financial reasons. Employers usually own the rights by assignment to inventions created by an employee during employment. Patents can be licensed for royalty payments by individuals or organizations. The topic of contract agreements in the intellectual property law field was important for our MSPL class to learn and understand so that we can be more prepared in the future for any involvement with contracts.

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