Oren Tavory v. NTP (Fed. Cir. 2008)(nonprecedential)
In March 2006, RIM settled its patent dispute with NTP for $600 million+. In the wake of that settlement, Tavory filed an inventorship claim against NTP arguing that he was a co-inventor of at least one of the NTP patents. The district court dismissed the case – finding that Tavory did not provide “sufficient independent evidence to corroborate his inventorship allegations.” On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed in NTP’s favor.
Back in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s Tavory worked with Tom Campana as a computer programmer for Telefind. While there, Tavory developed a computer program to facilitate an e-mail-to-pager system. He was also part of a team that created the pager-to-laptop e-mail system. Telefind ran out of money in 1991 and Tavory left for greener pastures. When Don Stout later filed Campana’s patent applications, he appended a copy of the code that Tavory had co-authored. During the RIM trial, Tavory testified for NTP. At that time, he did not claim inventorship.
Correcting Inventorship: An issued patent is presumed to name the correct inventors. Thus, an inventorship challenge must bring “clear and convincing evidence” that the newly surfaced inventor “contributed to the conception of the claimed invention.” “Simply reducing to practice that which has been conceived by others is insufficient for co-inventorship.” Under the clear and convincing standard, the inventorship challenge “must be corroborated by independent evidence.”
Contribution Must Be “More Than The Exercise of Ordinary Skill”: Tavory suggested that his contribution was the claimed “interface switch.” However, the Federal Circuit rejected that claim because (1) Tavory did not prove that the “interface switch itself was not in the prior art”; and (2) Tavory likewise did not prove that “his alleged contribution to the claimed invention—the interface switch—was the result of anything more than the exercise of ordinary skill in the art.” Consequently, “he has failed to establish co-inventorship.”
Judge Newman concurred with this result, but would have decided the case on laches (based on the long delay in making the claim) and estoppel (based on Tavory’s silence during the NTP trial).