Intellectual Property Examples

Intellectual Property Example One – Patents:

An Employee of a Research and Development (R&D) company worked on a new way to manufacture a widget produced by the company. The company did not ask Employee to do this; Employee just wanted to get a problem solved. The company did not have R&D funding set aside for this particular problem, so Employee worked on solving the manufacturing problem in his spare time, sometimes even working on it at home.

After a lot of hard work, Employee invented a new way to manufacture the widget, which would save the company a lot of money. Employee shows the invention to the management of the R&D company, and the company decides to use the idea and patent the invention. Who is the inventor? Who owns the Intellectual Property rights, in this case, the patent?

The Employee will be listed as the inventor, but the company will be listed as the Assignee of the patent and will own the invention. Why? Because:

  • the Employee was hired to work for the R&D company,
  • the company is in the business of producing widgets,
  • the Employee was working on the problem as a natural development of his employment
  • the Employee used company resources to develop the idea
  • the Employee was under an employment agreement requiring him to assign any Intellectual Property developed by Employee to the company if it was related to the business of the company.

Intellectual Property Example Two Trademarks:

A Woman has been producing and selling bread locally under the name Mother’s Bread for twenty years. She has not filed an application for a trademark registration with the state or with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A national baking company suddenly sells bread named Mother’s Bread in the same stores as the Woman, right next to the original Mother’s Bread.

Who owns the Intellectual Property rights, in this case, the trademark? The Woman owns the trademark in the locale in which she has been selling her bread for twenty years. Her trademark rights are based on her commercial use of the name in that area for twenty years.

Her Intellectual Property rights allow her to keep the new company from selling their Mother’s Bread next to hers, partly because this will confuse buyers as to the source of the bread. However, she will not be able to stop the company from selling bread under the trademark Mother’s Bread in areas outside the Woman’s selling area.

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