15 Things invented in Texas

Did you know that many of the world’s most famous and useful inventions were created right here in Texas? It’s true!

Read on to learn more about these home-grown innovations.

15. Calculators that Fit in Your Hand

In the 1960s, an electronic desktop calculator was among the most sophisticated machines for doing arithmetic. Texas Instrument revolutionized the landscape with the invention of the first handheld calculator in 1967. Called the Cal Tech, the device was put on the market in 1970.

14. Mary Kay Inc.

Founded in 1963 by Mary Kay Ash, this Addison, Texas company was declared in 2018 to be the world’s sixth-largest network marketing company. Its distributors, who are called beauty consultants, may be rewarded with a distinctive pink Cadillac if they are among the company’s top sellers.

13. The Frozen Margarita

Mariano Martinez was onto something in 1971 when he modified a soft-serve ice cream machine to mix margarita ingredients. Martinez got the idea after visiting a 7-Eleven with a slushy machine. He decided to invent a margarita that could be pre-mixed, frozen and then served whenever it was wanted. Although vendors of frozen drinks were skeptical, Martinez proved them wrong.

12. Shiner Beer

Brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, it’s difficult to name a more iconic Texas brand name. The brewery was founded in 1909 by Kosmos Spoetzl, a Bavarian immigrant. Spoetzl spread the word about Shiner Beer by leaving free bottles of beer on fence posts to be enjoyed by hardworking farmers. Shiner was eventually distributed to Austin and beyond.

11. The Ruby Red Grapefruit

Like many great inventions, the creation of the first ruby red grapefruit was an accident. Grapefruit trees had been cultivated in southern Texas as early as the late 19th century. Growers were constantly experimenting with new varieties, which led to innovations like the pink grapefruit. One day in 1929, a farmer noticed mutated red grapefruit that was growing on a pink grapefruit tree. The flesh of the fruit not only was red but also far sweeter than existing grapefruit varieties.

10. Selective Laser Sintering, or 3-D Printing

Most people probably think that 3-D printing is an ultra-modern invention. Actually, it has its roots in an invention known at selective laser sintering, which was developed by a University of Texas graduate named Carl Deckard. Deckard was still a student when he began working on his invention.

9. Breast Implants

In the early 1960s, two surgeons in Houston noted that a plastic blood bag felt remarkably like the female breast. From this moment, a revolution in the plastic surgery realm was begun.

8. Nachos at the Stadium

The humble yet tasty stadium nacho has its roots in a 1976 Texas Rangers baseball game. Inventor Frank Liberto was doing some experimentation when he discovered that cheese could be dispensed from a pump after being diluted with jalapeno juice and water. The rest is history.

7. Dell Computers

Most people don’t know that Michael Dell, a student at the University of Texas, started his company when he began selling personal computers from his dorm room. Dell never looked back, and now the company boasts more than 100,000 employees.

6. The Integrated Circuit

Texas Instruments inventor Jack Kilby was hard at work in 1958 when he developed the world’s first integrated circuit. The invention was the precursor to the microchip, which was the innovation that made it possible to shrink computers from room-sized to pocket-sized.

5. Dr. Pepper

One of America’s most popular soda brands had its genesis in 1885 when it was served in a Waco, Texas drugstore. Developed by pharmacist Charles Alderton, the product was taken nationwide in 1904.

4. Topsy Tail

Little girls growing up in the 1990s were wild to wear the inverted ponytail style that was made famous in the animated classic Beauty and the Beast. The Topsy Tail made it possible to do so with ease.

3. Fritos

These curly corn chips were invented by Charles Doolin in 1932. Originating in San Antonio, the little chips were a huge hit in Texas before being brought onto the world stage.

2. Liquid Paper

Bette Graham was working as a typist in Texas during the 1950s when she came up with one of the best inventions ever. Her Liquid Paper could erase mistakes with ease, and it quickly became a lucrative product.

1. Whole Foods Market

Now adored across the country, Whole Foods Market was created in Texas back in 1980. Initially called SaferWay, the small vegetarian food store eventually grew to have hundreds of locations.

Contact Williams IP Law

Are you developing the next great idea to come out of Texas? If so, then you need the guidance of an experienced intellectual property attorney. Contact Williams IP law to learn more about how to protect your creation.

Oil & Gas Patenting Trends and Innovation

The oil and gas industry has always been an innovative one. Over the decades, drilling for natural resources has required ever-more-sophisticated technology to tap into reserves that were unknown or impossible to exploit for earlier generations.

Consequently, the oil and gas industry has always pursued a multitude of patents. While that remains true, the protected technology has certainly evolved. Keeping up with these trends makes it possible for entrepreneurs and organizations to stay on top of the industry and remain competitive.

Patent Filing Trends

Today, most oil and gas industry patents are focused in areas such as:

  • Earth drilling;
  • Geophysics;
  • Metalworking technologies; and
  • Climate change–mitigation technologies

Earth drilling is by far the most frequently used technology in the field. It comes as no surprise then that most industry patents cover some aspect of this technology.

In an interesting trend, as the world emerged from the Great Recession that began in 2008, patent filings increased overall. However, patent applications in the oil and gas industry did not experience quite the same robust growth rate. Moreover, the focus of these patent applications had definitely switched to the areas listed above, with hydraulic fracturing receiving an even greater emphasis.

Patent Innovation for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, which commonly is referred to as fracking, involves cutting-edge technology in this field. A fracking fluid is pumped into an oil well under extreme pressures. The introduction of the fluid causes underground rock formations to fracture. These fractures stimulate the production of oil and gas.

Fracking techniques may be combined with horitzontal wells to reach previously unobtainable reserves.

Since 2006, oil and gas companies have filed approximately 1,000 patent applications related to fracking technology. The number of filings in this area has steadily increased each year, with the covered technology relating to both the tools and methods that are needed to exploit oil reserves.

Many players in the industry are seeking coverage for other technologies that are related to fracking. These may include systems and tools for monitoring fractures and proppants, finding the best positioning for horizontal drilling operations, controlling the heat resistance of fracking fluids and treating the waste products that are left over from the use of fracking fluid.

Trend in Patent Infringement Cases

As companies in the oil and gas industry have increased the number of patent applications they are filing, the opportunities for infringement have multiplied. Recall that the innovations that are disclosed in a patent application are afforded some level of protection as soon as the application is filed. The U.S. is now a first-to-file country, which means that the first party to file an application for a given technology is regarded as the first to have come up with the idea.

Accordingly, it is possible for patent applicants to begin informing others of their rights whenever they suspect that a competitor is somehow using their proprietary technology. The publication of the patent application, which frequently occurs approximately 18 months after filing, can serve as notice to competitors that they may be infringing.

Key Countries For Oil And Gas Innovation

Research suggests that most oil and gas industry related patents are being filed in the United States, China and Japan. Consequently, it is sensible for inventors or their employers to file patent applications at least in the U.S. to protect their ideas. It also may be worthwhile to consider filing national-phase applications in China, Japan and elsewhere that the technology may be used or infringed upon.

Contact Williams IP Law

The legal professionals at the Williams IP Law have considerable experience in the oil and gas industry. In the course of their practice, they have filed U.S. as well as PCT and national-phase patent applications. Partnerships with other intellectual property attorneys around the world make this a cost-effective and convenient process.

If you have an innovation that you would like to protect with a patent or are concerned that a competitor is infringing your rights in the oil and gas industry then it’s time to schedule a consultation with Jeffrey Williams.

Who Actually Invented the Light Bulb: Edison vs Swan vs Tesla

Ask any child, and he will probably tell you that Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb.

It’s a good story; one that relies on a popular myth of American individualistic invention. However, it’s definitely not the whole story.

In reality, the incandescent light bulb was the result of contributions from hundreds of inventors across the decades. Each one made certain improvements and refinements until, at last, there was an incandescent light bulb that made bringing electricity into the homes of billions of people possible.

Here is a brief look at some of the individuals who contributed to this effort.

Swan’s Light Bulb

Joseph Swan was just one inventor who made improvements in light bulb technology. He was working as a chemist in England in the middle of the nineteenth century when he began development of a more affordable light bulb. His invention replaced the previously used platinum filaments with carbonized paper filaments.

Unfortunately, for Swan, it turned out that while his carbonized paper filaments worked fairly well for demonstration purposes, they were not practical for everyday use. They simply burned out too quickly

The good news is that other inventors were waiting to make improvements to the light bulb.

Edison’s Light Bulb

We’ve already established that light bulbs were in existence even before Edison was born. One of his innovations was built directly on Joseph Swan’s incandescent light bulb.

Edison made the filaments thinner, giving them greater electrical resistance and ensuring that only a small amount of current was needed to create a glow. In 1879, Edison publicly demonstrated his refinements, which Swan quickly adopted. Swan then established an electrical lighting company in the U.K.

Edison sued, but the claims in Swan’s U.K. patent were strong. The two joined forces, forming Edison-Swan United and eventually becoming one of the largest light bulb manufacturers in the world.

In effect, Edison is credited with buying the patent for an incandescent light bulb. With these rights acquired, he was able to make improvements to the design that made it possible to provide electric light to the general public. Moreover, Edison was the consummate self-promoter, which enabled him to claim that he was solely responsible for the development of the light bulb.

Nonetheless, Edison was confronted with the massive problem of actually bringing electricity into American homes.

Tesla, the Light Bulb and Electric Current

Nikola Tesla was born in Europe in 1856. He emigrated to the U.S., where Edison sought him out in hopes of working together. Tesla helped bring new innovations to Edison’s inventions, but their working relationship didn’t last for long.

It appears that the two men disagreed on any number of topics. However, their most famous point of disagreement related to electric current. Edison was wholeheartedly behind the idea that direct current, or DC, was the way to bring electricity into homes.

Tesla believed that DC was insufficient and weak. Instead, he advocated for alternating current, or AC. With his invented induction motor, Tesla felt that it was possible sustain and regulate higher voltages using AC.

Edison and Tesla became embroiled in a nasty fight to prove the worthiness of their theories. In the end, it was Tesla who would triumph, and his AC system would be used to electrify America.


So, who actually invented the light bulb? The reality is that today’s light bulb is the result of countless hours of testing, trial and error by hundreds of different inventors over the course of more than 100 years.

Whether your invention is as revolutionary and necessary as the light bulb or has limited application within a particular industry, your innovation is worth protecting. Speak with an attorney from Williams IP Law to learn about all of the options that are available to you.

The Invention Process

When an inventor has a great idea that they believe is worthy of patent protection, they will naturally wonder when the appropriate time is to file a patent application. The process will vary a bit between different inventions, but the basics remain the same.

The sooner a patent search is conducted and a patent application is filed, the better the inventor’s chances are of obtaining a patent.

By examining the patent process in the U.S., it is possible for inventors to understand why this is so and gauge whether or not it is the right time to seek the advice of a qualified patent attorney.

The Idea

All issued patents begin with an idea. It progresses from a mere spark to something written on paper. The inventor may do some research, build an early prototype and learn a few things through trial and error.

It makes sense to make notes throughout this process. Although the U.S. ceased to be a “first to invent” country and became a “first to file” country in 2013, notes made and dated during the experimentation and development stage may prove valuable should the inventor ever need to substantiate the fact that they didn’t copy someone else’s idea.

Throughout this time, it is wise to treat the invention as confidential. Anyone to whom it is disclosed should be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. This lessens the likelihood that they will be able to steal the idea to use it for themselves. Also, it is necessary to not make public the details of your invention because it may preclude you from obtaining any patent protection.

The Patent Search

How confident are you that your invention is new, novel and not obvious? You may know the industry well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re aware of all of the prior art that may exist.

A patent search performed by an intellectual property attorney may help to determine the patentability of your invention.

The Patent Application

Once the patent application is filed, you can tell people that your invention is “patent pending.” Of course, going from idea to application can be a long journey.

Typically, a patent application is filed after the results of the patent search indicate that the invention may be patentable. The inventor then fully describes the invention to the attorney or patent agent who will be drafting the patent application.

The attorney or agent begins writing a descriptive specification and claims that more specifically point out the subject matter that is intended to be protected by the patent. Frequently, these filings are accompanied by a set of drawings that provide another description of the parts and use of the invention.

Once submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the patent application eventually will be examined by another attorney who is known as an Examiner. The Examiner may reject the patent application if he believes that the invention isn’t patentable. Intellectual property attorneys who work for the inventor are able to argue against this rejection, and they may make amendments to the application.

Requiring two or more years, the application process can be time consuming.

Continuing Development and Finding Investors

While the patent application is being examined, the inventor may build better prototypes and seek partners or investors to help get their venture moving. This is also the right time to create a marketing plan and find distributors who may be willing to bring the new product to the market.

Because the invention is patent-pending, it is perfectly acceptable to start marketing and selling the product before the patent issues. That pending patent application protects the inventor’s idea. They may seek legal redress from any infringers upon the issuance of the patent.

Consider Licensing or Selling the Rights

While some inventors decide to produce and market their invention mainly on their own, others don’t want the responsibility of manufacturing, distribution and related functions. In this scenario, the inventor may be able to license or sell their rights to one or more parties who are willing to take on these tasks. This leaves the inventor free to enjoy the profits of their hard work while also developing their next big idea.

The Invention Process Infograph

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Inventions to Survive a Hurricane

Neccessity is the mother of invention

We are in full swing on another hurricane season and when hurricanes come they bring along destruction on a wide scale. The large area effect becomes one of the biggest issues – too many problems in too large an area.

Inventions are often born of necessity, and natural disasters usually spur new inventive ideas. Perhaps you had an idea or created something to help you get through or cope with the recent storms. If so, feel free to call our intellectual property law office (Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston) for patent advice.

There are some practical, and not so practical, inventions to help survive a hurricane. The first step is surviving the hurricane itself and many of the inventions are not terribly practical for the average person. However, after the hurricane, there are some extremely practical inventions that the average person can do to survive until help arrives.

Step 1 – Surviving the hurricane

Whereas there is no guaranteed way to survive a storm, there are some inventions made to help you do just that.

The Hurricane Bed

The patent application (patent issued 1985) describes a bed that is wind resistant and bolted to the floor. The patent does not describe anything about water proofing and with recent flooding in Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, one cannot help but to imagine a watery grave in a sardine box bolted to the ground.

The Survival Capsule

This capsule is round (for strength) and made to float and be self-righting. The capsules come in various sizes which can hold varying numbers of occupants and all are made to have over one hour of air supply. The capsules can also be fitted with additional air tanks, fresh water to drink, and are insulated for temperature control. The sphere can be tethered if desired and can also be equipped with a GPS system.

For those who live near the shoreline, this capsule is also great for tsunamis. This is a very viable system to survive a natural disaster, but from a practicality standpoint it is hard for every home to be equipped with one at this time.

A Gear Bag

The best way to prepare for a natural disaster is to have a bag packed and ready. Call it a bug out bag, or a “go” bag – it’s a great start to having something you can easily and quickly grab that is full of everything you might need for the near future.

Your go bag should be water proof. Yeti creates a bag called the Panga that is one excellent choice. Ziplocs or pouches like the “Magpul” can be used to store important documents, medicine, papers, and your cell phone.

Clean Water

After a hurricane, one of the biggest problems is access to clean drinking water. The water from a hurricane is not clean rain water. It has mixed with sewage and other contaminants and is now a toxic brew. It can potentially take days or weeks before the normal water supply is available. Though many rescuers bring in water bottles, it may take them time to reach you.

The LifeSaver Bottle is one of several products that can filter water for you. The company also makes larger jerry cans and other products, but a simple small bottle can let you filter up to 4,000 liters of water before needing a filter change. You can use the standing water around you to stay hydrated while being protected from viruses and bacteria. There are also products like the LifeStraw and the Lifestraw Go Water Bottle.

Another invention is the WaterBob. It fits inside a normal bathtub and can be filled with clean water prior to the disaster. It can hold 100 gallons of fresh drinking water.


LuminAid creates a solar inflatable light. When power is out for days and the batteries are all wet or dead, having something simple like a light at night can be a huge morale booster.

Personal Sanitation

Sanitation is one of the largest problems after a disaster as sickness can easily effect a whole evacuation center. Rahim Bhimani created a disaster relief toilet that uses a bagging system to catch and dispose of waste. The unit can be folded down flat, easily assembled and transported.

An often overlooked, little talked about subject is female personal hygiene products. These can be impossible to find after a natural disaster. One option that can easily be packed into your go bag is a new type of “period proof” activewear. Thinx holds several patents on their organic, cotton products.


There are many items here to list, everything from freeze dried food options to portable solar stoves. The important thing is to grab enough food for a few days that is lightweight and easy to prepare.

It is true that one could survive for days without having something as simple as a go bag packed and ready. But there is a huge difference between barely making it out alive and living a little rough for a few days. A prepared kit can make the difference.

Thanks to modern inventors for thinking of such products and how they can help during natural disasters.

If you have an idea for an invention that you would like to discuss – Call our office today!

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

7 Common Sense Inventions

Products that Should Have Been Invented a Long Time Ago

Remember when you were younger and your mom would lose her keys (or her purse, or her wallet, or her kids) and you wondered why there wasn’t an invention out there to make it easier to locate these often lost items? Well, lucky for you while most of us are living in 2019, we have some brilliant inventors living in 2019 supplying us with those common sense inventions that really should have been invented a long time ago.

Rotatable Bench

We have all experienced that earth-shattering, soul-crushing, frustration-igniting moment when you’ve just ran 5-miles (or at least it feels like you’ve chased your two-year-old for 5-miles) and you excitedly walk to a bench ready for a quick-breather only to see that it is soaking wet, or even worse, you only find out after you’ve been sitting on it for 6.7 seconds. No more standing when there is a wet bench right next to you. This rotatable bench allows you to cleverly roll the seat with a nifty lever, making it perfectly safe to sit on without getting your yoga pants wet.

Color-detecting Pen

Have you ever been doodling your next masterpiece on a scrap of paper and remember how much you love that dark maroon dress your mother wore at your 21st birthday party and just wished you had that same shade to finish your drawing? With this color-detecting pen you can have all the shades of the universe at your fingertips, or the tip of your pen. Next time you’re at your mother’s house, or you see a bright, green leaf calling your name, just scan the object with your Scribble pen and doodle away. Even greater, the color-detecting pen stores previously scanned colors so you can re-use that burnt orange color from your trip to the Grand Canyon.

Drop Rest: Smart Coffee Mug

You’ve just printed the final copy of your dissertation. You grab a cup of coffee to sip on while you take one last look through your thesis, and as you’re stirring your creamer into your coffee one, single drop of coffee starts dripping down the side of the mug, making its way to your pristine paper. Everything is going in slow motion as you watch your page get ruined in a second. If only you had this smart coffee mug to save you from such a tragic fate. The Drop Rest mug catches drips in a thin groove around the mug, ensuring they never make it to your paper or table. Never worry about coffee stains again!

Transparent Hole Punch & Laser Scissors

Do you ever have to quickly hole punch a stack of important documents, but struggle to ensure the holes are lined up every single time? Do your kids ever need help cutting pictures for their school project and you fret about looking like a horrible parent when it comes out all raggedy? With the Transparent Punch you can see exactly where you are punching a hole in the paper, saving you from making mistakes and looking like an amatuer hole-puncher. The Laser Scissors help you cut in a straight line every time. Just follow the red ring or the red line and all your projects will look professionally done.

Some inventions are so common sense, that we can’t believe they were only just invented. Gone are the days were we have to face coffee-stained memos and crookedly lined hole punches. We are in a new era where perfection is key, obscure colors are attainable, and bottoms stay dry. Here’s to experiencing 3019 in 2019!

If you need any patent help, give us a quick phone call and we can review your situation and provide all the help you need.

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Top 6 Summer Inventions for 2019

For kids summer means freedom from school and endless fun in the warm sun, for adults it seems like life gets messier and busier. For others it’s a time of inspiration and innovation. Consider investing in some of these innovative summer inventions to help keep your Summer as cool and smooth as possible.

Bite Helper Bug Bite Itch Solution

No one likes the incessant itching that come with mosquito bites. The Bit Helper Bug Bite Itch Solution is a summer must-have to soothe the discomfort. The Bite Helper has a thermo-pulse metal tip on the end. Simply place the device on top of the bug bite and the thermo-pulse technology applies concentrated heat to the area and neutralizes the itching in seconds. Bite Helper is both drug and chemical free, and gentle for kids as young as 4-years-old. The compact device makes it easy to carry on all your summer adventures.

Picnic Backpack

No one enjoys stumbling in the summer heat with picnic baskets, blankets, and dishes, but this picnic backpack can make the whole process more enjoyable. Because of its convenient design, you can be sure that everything you need is one place. From food to plates to glasses to blankets, everything is tucked in neatly. Unlike picnic baskets, this backpack allows you to free your hands and gives you more mobility so you can hike to that perfect view for your romantic picnic.

Portable BBQ Suitcase

No picnic is truly completely without some juicy meat right off the grill. Luckily, with this Portable BBQ Suitcase you can bring the grill with you wherever you go, hassle-free. This portable charcoal grill is made out of high-grade stainless steel and has a convenient mess-free ash catcher. It can only accommodate cooking for two, so this is best used for an intimate event rather than a family reunion at the beach. The Portable BBQ Suitcase locks and closes securely for easy transport. This will definitely impress your picnic date.

Recycled Swim Shorts

If you think paper straws are an ingenious way to save underwater creatures, you’ll love these fashionable recycled swim shorts. These shorts are made by taking nylon waste and depolymerizing it. The material is then transformed into nylon 6 yarn. The yarn is then used to make these eco-friendly swim shorts. Not only will you look stylish splashing into the pool, but you can swim at ease knowing you are saving the planet.

Motorized Luxury Pool Lounger

Does laying on your back for hours while sunbathing bore you? Well, with this motorized luxury pool lounger you can get your summer tan going while having fun zooming through the water. This motorized lounger has twin propellers, and allows you to maneuver left, right, forward, and backward with ease. It’s dual push-button controls make it simple to use, and the lounger is easily assembled in a matter on minutes. The built-in cup holder ensures your cold drink stays safe as you zoom circles around your friends and family.

Mini Desktop Cooling Fan

There is nothing worse than sitting at your desk trying to meet an upcoming deadline but keep getting distracted by the sweat dripping down your face. This Mini Desktop Cooling fan is here to solve that problem this summer. The fan has three adjustable levels of power, and allows you to choose how to distribute the air flow. A single charge powers this small but mighty fan for 6.5 hours, ensuring you have enough breeze to get you through that deadline. The fan has a strong clamp that can easily attach to the edge of your desk, or even your laptop. No more suffocating feeling with the overwhelming heat, this fan will ensure you stay cool all summer long.

Summer is a great time to enjoy friends and family, and hopefully with these inventions summer 2019 will be the best one yet.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

What or who is the inventor?

When someone has a great idea, it’s natural for them to want to claim ownership over it by filing a patent application. For a single individual who comes up with an invention and reduces it to practice, the concept of inventorship is straightforward.

However, several people frequently work on an invention. Perhaps one, two or even more people will make a significant intellectual contribution, which may make them joint inventors on the patent application.

Other people also may have a hand in the process, but they are not necessarily inventors. For instance, a worker may be asked to build a prototype of the invention. While this worker has participated in the process, they did not make a contribution to the development of the concept.

When several inventors are involved, how do companies and individuals working together decide who is entitled to identification as an inventor on a patent application?

Who Conceived the Idea?

Just because someone builds a prototype of an invention or conducts tests of the prototype does not make them an inventor. If in the process of their work, they introduce significant changes that improve the functionality of the invention, then they may need to be listed as an inventor on any patent application.

U.S. patent law uses the idea of “conception” to identify inventors. The test for determining conception is whether or not the idea was permanent and concrete enough in order for the idea to be communicated to another person who is skilled in the art so they can understand the invention.

A general goal or a plan for researching a solution to a problem is not sufficient to rise to the level of inventorship. Instead, an investor must have a settled idea with specific details to demonstrate a solution to a particular problem. Any individual who contributes to the conception, whether their contribution is large or small, is entitled to be a named inventor on a patent application.

It’s never appropriate name someone who was not an inventor in an application for patent. Doing so may be caused to invalidate the patent later. Accordingly, the company’s CEO or a major shareholder should never be named as an inventor unless they actually made concrete and specific contributions to the new device.

Assigning Rights to the Owner of the Technology

U.S. patent law further states that an inventor must be a person. Accordingly, it is not possible for a company or other entity to be an inventor. Many companies nonetheless own patents, but there is a significant difference between being an inventor and owning a patent.

In situations where the inventor or inventors also are the owners of the patent, all of the inventors own an equal share of the property regardless of the size of their contribution to its creation. Any of the inventor-owners may be able to make, use import, sell and otherwise capitalize on the invention.

Frequently, an invention is made by employees of a business entity. In these cases, the people who created the concept are still the inventors, but the business may wish to own the patent rights. This means that the inventors will have to assign their rights in the invention to their employer.

Assigning patent rights typically is accomplished by means of a straightforward assignment document. These documents may be part of the worker’s employment agreement. Alternatively, a fresh assignment document may be drafted for each individual invention, typically at the time that a patent application is filed.

The assignment may be recorded with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so that the patent owner is identified to the public. Moreover, the names of the inventors and the owner will be printed on the cover page of any patent that issues from the application.

An intellectual property attorney can help individuals determine whether or not they are inventors and ensure the proper assignment of rights to a business entity.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a straight forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives of the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.