Monday, August 29, 2011
Can an Inventor Ditch Her Investors?
Right, you had a question. The resolution of your problem depends on two things: your paperwork and the amount of money each party is willing to spend on a legal battle. Your lawyer needs to review the initial agreement, the corporate formation documents, and hopefully, if there is one, the assignment of patent rights. Even if there is no assignment to the corporation, your lawyer may still be able to force the transfer of rights (or at least a financial judgment tied to the value of the patent) if the remaining paperwork conclusively proves that the inventor was going to hand over the invention. In any case, based on the facts in your letter, it appears as if this matter is headed for some legal martial arts so we urge you to see an attorney ASAP.
Alternative courses of action. If you have an arbitration clause in your agreement, that may enable you to resolve the matter quicker, or you could always ask for arbitration if the inventor is willing to agree. More importantly, have you evaluated the patent's commercial potential? We know that you believe in the patent so much so that you're willing to fight about it, but the objectivity of a third-party evaluation my save you a lot of time and effort. As you may be aware, it's estimated that 50% of patent applications never become patents and of those that do get issued, less than 2% are commercialized (offered for sale). (We're not sure how reliable these statistics are but they give you an idea.) In other words if the idea is uncommercial, its possible that your inventor friend is offering you a chance to walk away from your obligations without any more risk or investment. That may be a better choice than being trapped in a reality TV show with your so-called "partner."