Property, intangible

a blog about ownership of intellectual property rights and its licensing


  • Scope of the MOU

    Memorylink Corp. v. Motorola, Inc. is a fairly routine story of a joint development agreement gone wrong, with the small, independent inventors at Memorylink complaining they were mistreated by the far larger Motorola. Most of the claims were rightly kicked on statute of limitations grounds, but there was one theory that I thought the court… Continue reading

  • Jumping to Conclusions

    One thing lawyers are good at is exploiting weaknesses. A recently-filed case in Delaware used an incorrect admission in an unrelated case as grounds for a motion to dismiss, claiming that the admission demonstrated that the plaintiff was not the actual owner of the patent. The defendant’s motion was ultimately unsuccessful, but a lot time… Continue reading

  • University versus Professor

    There have been a few news reports of a suit between the University of Missouri and Galen J. Suppes, a professor of chemical engineering, and William R. Sutterlin, a former graduate teaching assistant and post-doctoral fellow. The university has a broad contractual claim to ownership of patents for inventions created by its employees, including those… Continue reading

  • Unfairly Filing Patent Applications

    Patent inventorship is defined by law, but there’s more than one way to get rewarded for it. Unjust enrichment, for example. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary v. QLT Phototherapeutics, Inc. is a tale of business misrepresentations and underhanded dealing, described by the court as “manifest unfairness” and “unscrupulous.” Of particular interest here is the maneuvering… Continue reading

  • Make a List, Check it Twice

    Of the four types of intangible property typically characterized as “intellectual property,” that is, patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret, only one, the patent, is a true grant of rights from the government. If the government says you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Which brings me to a sorry tale of oversights and… Continue reading

  • Quickly Decomposing

    Agreements that assign employees’ inventions to the employer are commonplace. O’Keefe v. County of St. Clair demonstrates why. Plaintiff John O’Keefe was an at-will Landfill/Resource Recovery Manager for the county landfill. Co-defendant CTI and Associates was a contractor at the landfill, working with O’Keefe on operations and landfill design. O’Keefe and the president of CTI… Continue reading

  • Mars Gets at Least One Do-Over

    The June, 2008 decision in Mars, Inc. v. Coin Acceptors, Inc., blogged here, was a tale of what happens when companies move IP assets around for tax purposes. In Coin Acceptors, Mars sued Coin Acceptors, then assigned the patents to a subsidiary, MEI, Inc. The assignment created a standing problem for Mars, which lost its… Continue reading

  • Disarmed

    Han Nee invented, and patented, the use of various silver alloys to be used in reflective and semi-reflective layers of CDs and DVDs. He may have done it while employed for Sony DADC US Inc. (“DADC”) and Sony, Inc. (“Sony”), a company related to DADC somehow. Nee had worked for both companies at different points… Continue reading

  • Paying Royalties in the Hereafter

    Contract cases (like patent cases) often come down to one word. In Imation Corp. v. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V., it was the little word “hereafter.” In 1995 Imation’s predecessor 3M and Philips entered into a patent cross-license for CD and DVD technology. The license terminated on March 1, 2000, except that the patent licenses granted… Continue reading

  • I Swear I Invented It First

    Judge Alsup from the patent-heavy Northern District of California court has taken advantage of the almost certain appeal of patent cases by writing an “Appendix” to point out what he perceives as an unfairness in patent jurisprudence. He asks the Federal Circuit to address the burden of proof in swearing behind references. The patent in… Continue reading