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Chapter 16:

Patents – History, Use and Utility


months the patent is either allowed or rejected. If rejected, you can ask for a reexamination if you have new evidence to refute the examiner’s arguments. You can also appeal and then a Board of Appeals of three senior examiners will handle the case. A patent is valid for twenty years from the date of filing provided a schedule of three maintenance fees is paid. The fee schedule, which ascends quite steeply, is revamped and changed quite frequently; so there is no reliance on past values given, but the fees have to be checked against the current schedule of the Patent Office. After the patent is allowed it can be commercially exploited. When the patent issues, everyone can see that you are the owner of the patent or the company or other party to whom you have assigned your patent and interested parties may contact you in case they want a license. What is the reward for the employed inventor? It varies widely. Each company has its own rules. The trend has been for the inventor to keep more of the benefits of his invention, particularly at the universities. At General Foods we got, as far as I remember, $100 at the time of application and $250 at the time of issuance (increased from $25 when I first joined). Even when the patent was commercially successful you did not receive any additional defined compensation, but sometimes by the decision of the chairman of the company were given a special award of several thousand dollars and this was announced in the company newspaper. Of course patents also helped in the salary raises, which were decided according to the merit system (with annual performance reviews). At Hoffmann LaRoche, the inventor received one dollar at the time of assignment of the patent to the company plus a small percentage of the profit if the patented drug went commercial, up to a maximum pay-out of $10,000. This formula was later changed to something similar to the General Foods small monetary award system. IBM also gives a monetary award at the time of filing and again at the time of issuance. Of course my knowledge of company practices on this is very limited. In general, the feeling is that if you are in