Federal Circuit Clarifies the Level of Contribution Required for Joint Invention of a Chemical Compound
By Yana Welinder – Edited by Adam Lewin
Falana v. Kent State Univ., No. 2011-1198, 2012 WL 171550 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 23, 2012)
The Federal Circuit affirmed in part the ruling of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, which held that Dr. Olusegun Falana should have been listed as co-inventor on a patent that described the use of his protocol for controlled synthesis of a category of chemical compounds for use in liquid crystal displays (“LCDs”).
Judge Linn, joined by Judge Prost and Judge Reyna, affirmed the district court’s order to add Falana as co-inventor to U.S. Patent No. 6,830,789 (filed Sept. 24, 2001) (“the ’789 patent”). The court found that Falana “envisioned the structure of a novel chemical compound and contributed to the method of making it” because he developed a procedure for synthesizing a new class of compounds that was later used to synthesize a compound that exhibited a desired temperature independence. Slip op. at 13. In so holding, the court considered Falana’s contribution to “the entire class of compounds covered by the plain language of the claims” and rejected the defendants’ narrow reading of the claims to be limited to compounds that can perform “across a temperature range of +10°C to +50°C.” Id. at 7, 9.
PatentlyO provides an overview of the case. IP Frontline criticizes the decision because as applied to patents “with countless claims [it] opens the door to the possibility that at least one of the claims was jointly invented by someone not named in the patent,” which might enable patent defendants to recruit unlisted co-inventors as part of a patent litigation defense strategy. (more…)