In a landmark decision delivered recently by the UK Supreme Court, Professor Shanks, an inventor, was awarded £2 million in compensation for a device he created. Professor Shanks developed the technology while he was employed by a Unilever company and the invention has proved lucrative for Unilever in many jurisdictions.
In the early 1980s, while employed by a subsidiary of global consumer goods company, Unilever, Professor Shanks invented a device for measuring the concentration of glucose in blood or urine. Unilever obtained several patents citing Professor Shanks as the inventor in various territories around the world, including a European patent. Since the invention was developed during the course of his employment, and his duties specifically included invention, Professor Shanks accepted that pursuant to section 39 of the Patents Act 1977 (the “Patents Act”), Unilever was automatically the owner of the invention, as his employer.
However, Professor Shanks argued that, pursuant to section 40 of the Patents Act, he was entitled to a “fair share” of the benefit in compensation due to the “outstanding benefit” of his invention. Unilever disagreed. Continue Reading