Innovation and an intensive patent portfolio strategy are the strong foundations of competitive businesses.
Dedicated Acts on Employee Inventions regulate Employee Inventions particularly in Germany and in a handful of other European countries. In the remaining countries provisions are taken from patent law and laws regulating employment relationships.
In the UK, for example, only a short section of the Patent Act is concerned with employee inventions, leaving, as the 13-year-long Shanks v Unilever saga has shown, a lot of room for interpretation.
In contrast, the Employee Inventions Act in Germany categorizes employee inventions, regulates the transfer of intellectual property rights between the employer and the employees, and provides a detailed formula to calculate adequate remuneration.
The Employee Inventions act in Germany is the most elaborated, and a reference of its own for many countries adopting legal strategies when ruling about rights of employee inventors.
As the global market shapes the presence of individual companies to span across several countries, a need for a harmonized way to deal with rights regarding employee inventions and remuneration issues has arisen. Seeking a solution to this harmonization need has revealed the inadequacy of existing provisions to account fairly for employee inventions produced by employees across different countries, who are employed by the same company.
We provide a brief overview of the existing provisions in Europe, with emphasis on Germany, and present possible options on the basis of emerging trends in the field.