Act on respecting employees' inventions

On 1 January 2005 the Act on respecting employees' inventions entered into force. 'Employees' here refers to both public and private sector employees. The Act applies only to inventions in technical fields, as defined by the Patents Act no. 17/1991, not to things such as copyright, plant variety rights or design rights. It must be kept in mind that, for the most part, the provisions of the Act are not mandatory. Thus, parties may negotiate other arrangements than those appearing in the law, with the exception of certain provisions which will be explained below. 

The foremost substantive provisions of the Act are the following:

In accordance with the Act, an employee has the right to an invention and may be required to surrender that right to the employer if its transfer is in the employer's professional field or the invention is connected to a certain project assigned to the employee.

Employees must notify their employers of the invention (Disclosure), without unnecessary delay, such that they can evaluate its importance. Employers then have 3 months from the notification to evaluate the invention and inform the employee of whether or not they wish to transfer the technology. At that time, the employee must treat the invention as a matter of complete confidentiality, unless the the employer agrees otherwise. An employee, however, may always apply for a patent for the invention during these 3 months, having notified the employer. This provision is mandatory.

Employees have the right to receive fair compensation for the surrender of an invention. This provision is mandatory, unless the value of the invention does not exceed that which the employee might fairly be expected to produce in consideration of his or her total salary. Compensation must be determined in consideration of the value of the invention and its importance for the employer's operations, the employee's terms of employment, and the employee's part in the invention. If an employee is hired to work on inventions, it may be determined that fair compensation for an invention is included solely in the employee's terms of employment.

Should an employee apply for a patent for an invention within six months of the end of employment, the invention is considered to have been produced within the period of employment unless the employee produces evidence proving otherwise. Deviation from this rule is unlawful; for example, the aforementioned period may not be extended to a year by contract between the employee and the company.

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