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Employee inventor did not hit jackpot

December 2011 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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IP & employees
A technical engineer was not entitled to compensation for three inventions made in the course of employment. The inventions were not sufficiently inventive.
Some employees are hired to come up with new ideas. But sometimes an employee comes up with such a good idea that it must be considered as going beyond the job description. And in that case the employee will be entitled to compensation. In a recent case, the Danish High Court had to consider whether an employee was entitled to compensation for three inventions made in the course of employment.
A technical engineer was given notice of redundancy by his employer, a manufacturer of moisture measurement sensors and technical solutions to the market gardening industry.
The engineer did not accept the basis for his redundancy. He also believed he should be compensated for three inventions he had made during his employment. He had been the sole inventor and the value of the inventions exceeded what he could reasonably be expected to create in a job like his.
His employer disagreed. Finding solutions to customers' problems was part of the engineer's job description. Also, he had not created the inventions alone. They had been devised in collaboration with customers and his fellow employees. And one of the inventions had not even been put into production.
The engineer sued his employer via his trade union – first in the district court and then, on appeal, in the High Court.
No compensation
The Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the engineer was not entitled to compensation for the inventions since the engineer had been employed to solve problems. It was thus part of his job to be inventive.
Norrbom Vinding notes:
  • that the case shows that employees are only entitled to compensation under the Danish Employee Inventions Act for inventions which go beyond what they can be expected from their job description to create;

  • that, when setting the level of compensation, the Danish courts will consider the value and significance of the invention to the employer and the salary level of the employee; and

  • that the higher the degree of inventiveness involved in the employee’s job description, the stricter the requirements that must be met for the employee to be entitled to compensation.

The above does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such

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