Joint Inventorship at the Movies

Nathaniel Lucek, a patent attorney at Hodgson Russ LLP, and Cheryl Junker, a Licensing Manager at the University of Georgia, wrote this great piece on joint inventorship issues raised in various movie scenarios.  Examples are drawn from several movies, including comic book adaptations The Dark KnightThe Dark Knight Rises, and Iron Man 2. The article does a great job of combining two of my favorite things: legal analysis of fictional scenarios and patent law.  Check it out!

5 responses to “Joint Inventorship at the Movies

  1. Pingback: Joint Inventorship at the Movies | Superhero Soup

  2. Fun read. It’s good to see you guys back!

  3. On the Tron example I don’t believe the example matches the “facts” as presented in the movie. Flynn attests upon confronting the AI that it was at heart a program he wrote to play chest. Dillinger modified that program to become the MCP application, which then later adapted itself or increased its capabilities through “learning”. So Flynn was the original developer of the AI algorithm, which makes him its inventor.
    I must admit I don’t know enough about either Patent Law or what exactly Dillinger did to adapt the algorithm to run the MCP to know whether he would be considered a co-inventor or not.
    An aside to this; Flynn developed all of the games on his own time, but using resources which belonged to ENCOM. So who do the games belong to? While Flynn obviously was not producing work-for-hire in writing programs no one knew about, many employment contracts (such as the one I work under) attests that all work performed during the employment period, certainly any work performed using the company’s assets, belongs to the company.

    • Not to pile on, but I think Back to the Future’s Doc has a shaky case to claim a patent on the flux capacitor, too. If I recall correctly, the original idea for it comes not from the Doc, but from (time-traveling) Mr. McFly, who got it from the (future) Doc, who got it from (time-traveling) Marty, who got it from (future) Doc, leaving the claim to original invention cloudy at best.

      There’s a similar situation with the film’s version of the origin of “Johnny B. Goode”.

      • Not exactly. Marty uses his knowledge of the flux capacitor’s existence to prove to Doc that he’s from the future; the Doc had already had the essential idea and made his initial drawings earlier that day.

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