2009 had a few developments for patent lawyers in the UK. For instance in the case of Kelly v GE Healthcare in the High Court an award of 1 and a half million pounds was made to two former employees of the firm GE Healthcare for whom they had been involved in the patenting of an invention.
The two claimants had been employed as research scientists at Amersham International plc (which then became GE Healthcare).
Under section 40 of the Patents Act 1977 an employee may seek compensation for an invention belonging to the employer (as usual where an invention is created in the course of employment) if:
the employee has made an invention belonging to the employer for which a patent has been granted;
having regard to, among other things, the size and nature of the employer’s business, the invention or the patent for it (or the combination of both) is of outstanding benefit to the employer; and
by reason of those facts, it is just that the employee should be awarded compensation to be paid by the employer.
This was the first time such a claim had come to court. The patent, and not the invention protected thereby, needed to be of outstanding benefit (however, the Patents Act has since been amended so as to make compensation payable when the invention and not just the patent has been of outstanding benefit. This amendment applies only to inventions made after January 2005)