Industry expert Tony O'Lenick explains the difference between being an inventor and an assignee of a patent...
The Constitution of the United States provides in Article 1, Section 8, that: the "Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
US law, unlike foreign law, requires a patent application to be in the name of the inventor. A company cannot be the inventive entity.
The definition for inventorship can be simply explained: The threshold question in determining inventorship is who conceived of the invention. Unless a person contributes to the conception of the invention, he is not an inventor. The inventor maintains intellectual domination over the invention. An inventor has to contribute something to the conception of the invention, not merely be the supervisor of the inventor or someone that acted under the direction and supervision of the inventor.
The assignee is the entity that has the property right to the patent. Patents are property. The inventor and the assignee may be one in the same but an employee will more than likely assign a patent to a company.
The assignment of a patent is independent from the inventorship. A patent may be assigned to a series of different entities but the inventorship, once properly stated, does not change. The patent office allows for correction of inventorship if the error occurred without deceptive intent.