I worked for a company and signed a contract stating that any invention I come up with I would sign over to the company. I recieved a patent for one of my product designs. The company was having financial problems and owed me a large some of money. I told them I would not sign the patent over until I was paid what I was owed. I stopped working for the company and took the patent and the drawing files with me. The company didn't pay me what I was owed and has been sued by a supplier for all of the companies assets. Do I still have the rights to the patent.
State/Country relating to question: Arizona
I have just been contacted by the supplier that sued my former compny
Possibly, if the patent is in your name only with the USPTO and you did not sign over the patent to your company, you would technically still have legal rights to the patent.
However, the inquiry as to whether you could maintain the rights in the patent lies in the contract language of the contract that you signed with your company with respect to a material breach of the contract and the remedies set forth within the contract. Your refusal to sign over the rights of the patent would most likely be considered a material breach.
The second inquiry would be whether the contract could be assigned to a third party such as this supplier who could enforce the contract against you by "standing in the shoes" of original party to the contract, your employer.
Thus, to answer your question, you or your attorney would need to review the contract that you signed with respect to those provisions. As of now, the fact that the supplier is contacting you directly without some type of "cease and desist" may indicate that they are not on strong legal footing with respect to the patent rights. Nevertheless, it would be a good idea to retain an intellectual property and/or contract attorney to represent your interests in the patent.
MBA, Experienced and Knowledgeable in Intellectual Property Law
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