How to I find a patent by "inventor" name?

Inventors and Inventorship: What does it really mean?

"Inventor" is an often misunderstood word that has both a public meaning and a legal meaning. In getting a patent or finding prior art in a patent search, it is the legal meaning and understanding of who has created an invention that is important. The Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) gives a legal definition for the word as defined by U.S. Patent Law. MPEP section 2137.01 (II) states that an inventor is a person who contributes to the conception of the invention. Historically, the public sometimes has a misinformed belief as to who creates an invention because of the basic difference between an invention versus an idea. The United States is somewhat unique in that an applicant for a patent must be the person who truly imagined the details of the invention set forth in what is claimed in a patent application. This requirement does not usually exist in other countries.

Understanding patent terminology is important in a prior art patent search or to find a patent by a particular person. Knowing the true creator of an invention will enable you to look up the U.S. Patent for that invention by that person’s name very quickly. Knowing the person who truly conceived an invention might also help you rule out whether someone has obtained a US Patent for an invention, or the discovery belongs to the public at large because of failure to obtain a patent. However, if you do not properly understand the definitions and legal terms associated with patents. Time may be wasted following an ill-informed lead as to the name of a person or company that might be on a patent, and the information you collect about a person or discovery could be incorrect.

Let’s take a simple example to explain inventorship:

ACME Corporation has developed a teleportation device that moves biological material between any two points on planet earth. Joe Smith is the chief engineer on the project and had been in charge of the project for several years. About once a month, Joe Smith would meet with a team of two software developers (Fred and Ronnie) and one other chemical and materials engineer (Cathy) to discuss their progress on the project. Joe Smith would often critique the feasibility of the team’s solutions and offer insights into potential liabilities. Joe has been particularly concerned about the potential civil liability if a human being is dematerialized by the technology and re-materializes with injuries or even worse consequences. However, Joe has never involved himself in brainstorming the solutions to any of these problems and has never contributed to the engineering of the technology.

In the above scenario, ACME Corporation likely owns the invention through a “work for hire” agreement or patent laws. However, ACME Corporation did not contribute to the conception of the product. Only an individual person, not an entity, can be contribute to an conception and invention under U.S. patent law. Also, Joe Smith is not a contributor based on the information provided because he has not made a contribution to the ideas within technology claimed, even though he was a leader. The inventor(s) will be either Fred, Ronnie or Cathy. Each of these persons may have contributed to the invention. The claims in the patent will determine who should be named. The persons involved will need to consider what elements of the claims make the invention novel. Those persons that contributed to the conception of those elements that make the invention novel are the true inventors.

Thus, if you are looking up an invention by a company name, then you should look in the “Assignee” field of the patent search data. If you happen to know the person who conceived of the novel features of the invention, then you can look up an invention by the individual’s name.