The Patent after the Punch Up

What happens when two minds co-create a patentable object and then fight over its exploitation?

This was the decision the court had to make in the recent case of Derek Hughes v Neil Paxman [2006] EWCA Civ 818.

This case involved the creation of a water cooler which acquired a patent, the two proprietors then ceased having a business relationship, one of the proprietor’s wished to licence the patent to a third party which was subsequently blocked by the other owner.Â

The court held that despite section 36 of the Patents Act 1977 stating that a co-proprietor may exploit the patent himself but not licence to a third party, that the proprietor should have the right to grant a licence and for the reason that inventions should ‘not be frustrated by a deadlock situation’.

 This decision should clearly be welcomed as it is surely in the public interest that an invention should be exploited and thus enhance the development of society rather than be lost over a dispute.

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