Court Rules Reputational Harm Confers Standing to Sue over Inventorship
In Shukh v. Seagate Technology, LLC, 2014-1406 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 2, 2015), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that “concrete and particularized reputational injury” can confer Article III standing to sue. The court vacated and remanded the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota’s grant of summary judgment to defendant Seagate Technology, LLC on the grounds that reputational harm is in fact a valid basis for standing, and affirmed the district court’s remaining holdings. In the original case, plaintiff Alexander Shukh filed a complaint against his former employer Seagate alleging that Seagate wrongly omitted him as an inventor on six patents, among several other claims relating to the termination of his employment. The district court granted Seagate’s motion for summary judgment on Shukh’s claim for correction of inventorship under 35 U.S.C. § 256, finding that Shukh’s employment at-will barred his financial or ownership interest in the inventions. On appeal, Shukh argued that a trier of fact could conclude that his omission from the disputed patents caused injury to his reputation as an inventor, which he claimed prevented him from obtaining other employment. In a unanimous decision, the court found that there is a material question of fact as to whether these omissions actually caused Shukh reputational injury, but agreed that “if the claimed inventor can show that being named as an inventor on a patent would affect his employment, the alleged reputational injury likely has an economic component sufficient to demonstrate Article III standing.” In its opinion, the court emphasized that the number of patents on which an inventor is listed is a critical component of the inventor’s professional reputation.