Can inventors who are employed by a company benefit from their inventions?

Typically, inventor-employees who invent in the course of their employment are bound by employment agreements that automatically assign all rights in the invention to the employer.

While smart research and development companies give their inventors bonuses for valuable inventions, they aren't legally obligated to do so (unless the contract requires it). If there is no employment agreement, the employer may still own rights to an employee-created invention under the "employed to invent" rule. If an inventor is employed-even without a written employment agreement-to accomplish a defined task, or is hired or directed to create an invention, the employer will own all rights to the subsequent invention.

If there is no employment agreement and the inventor is not employed to invent, the inventor may retain the right to exploit the invention, but the employer is given a non-exclusive right to use the invention for its internal purposes (this is called a shop right).

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