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Who is the Inventor?

The term “inventor” is not defined in the South African Patents Act. It can however be assumed that an inventor is a person that makes an invention that qualifies as an invention in terms of the Patents Act. Taking into account what the requirements of patentability are, it can be assumed that a person that come up with an invention that is novel, inventive and has application in trade or industry, qualifies as an inventor.

In the same way as patent claims are construed, i.e. in terms of integers (or essential elements), it can be assumed that a person that bring those integers together will be the inventor.  The question is therefore: Who the person(s) is(are) that brought those integers together?

It may be that one person brought together the integers in one claim and another person contributed to the integers in another claim.  They will then be co-inventors (or joint inventors).  It may also be that both persons contributed to the integers in a single claim, then they will also be co-inventors (or joint inventors). If a single person brought together all the integers of the claims in a patent specification, that person will be a sole inventor.

In event of a dispute to inventorship in which one person inventively contributed to certain claims and another person contributed to certain other claims, the claims to which the inventor cannot lay claim to, may be excised from the set of claims, so as to overcome such a dispute. Upon filing a patent application the inventor signs a declaration that he/she is the true inventor. A misrepresentation on this declaration may be grounds for revocation of a patent.

Posted on 21 January 2010
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