You’re a solo inventor if you conceive your invention completely by yourself and are not anyone’s employee or perform work for others as an independent contractor (non-employee). If you qualify, you will be the unquestionable sole inventor and original owner of your invention.
EXAMPLE: Kilroy, a retired engineer, spent much of his “golden years” working on inventions. Among them was an interlocked pallet and container system designed to prevent spillage from crates on top of pallets. Kilroy worked for himself and conceived his invention himself. He obtained two patents for the system. Kilroy was a true independent inventor and was the sole inventor and owner of his invention. (Kilroy v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 1980-489.)
CAUTION: Beware of Holdover Clauses. If you’ve worked in the past as an employee or independent contractor, be sure to read any employment or contractor agreement you signed. Such agreements typically contain provisions requiring you to assign your patent rights to the employer. Moreover, they often include “holdover clauses” providing that you must assign your inventions for some time after your employment ends. So, even if you’re self-employed now, an agreement you’ve signed in the past could come back to haunt you.
Inventions are often jointly invented by two or more people. Joint inventors are also joint owners of their invention. Joint owners (sometimes called co owners) share in the ownership rights to an invention. If you’re a joint owner, your life is more complicated than that of a sole owner. The most important consequences of joint ownership are that:
Portions of this article are derived from What Every Inventor Needs to Know About Business & Taxes by Attorney Stephen Fishman.