The general rule is that the inventor is the first person entitled to. However, if there is more person / parties involved in devising the invention, the general rule can get quite complicated. In the case of Henry Bros (Magherafelt) Ltd v Ministry of Defence (1999) the Court of Appeal held that the test was to determine who had contributed to the main concept of the invention. This test has recently been applied in IDA Ltd v Southampton University (2006).
The general rule has to be departed from in the case of employee inventors. Under the Patents Act 1977, s 39 (1), if the inventor is an employee, the patent will belong to the employer if the invention is made in the course of the employee’s normal duties. What does ‘in the course of normal duties’ mean? In the case of Greater Glasgow Health Board’s Application (1996), it was held that a hospital doctor who had invented a new device for examining eyes owned the invention himself. He was employed to treat patients, not to invent, and so the invention did not belong to his employer.
However, an employee may receive compensation from his employer if he has invented something which belongs to his employer. However, the invention must be of outstanding benefit to the employer and it must be just that compensation is awarded to the employee.