As an attorney when you say family law to me I almost always think divorce.  There are many other facets to family law, so my apologies to all the family law practitioners out there.  But when family law meets patent law, it is usually because of a divorce, death or dissolution of some sort.

In this case James Taylor (not the singer) is the inventor of several patents.  In his 2006 divorce, he agreed to equitable distribution of the marital assets, including the patents. The agreement stated that  the patents would be divided 60/40 in favor of the former Mrs. Taylor.

The former Mrs. Taylor is a principle in Taylor Made Plastics.  Taylor Made Plastics makes products related to the patents split in the divorce.  Mr. Taylor decide to sue his former spouse for patent infringement.

However, the divorce agreement did not specifically state whether legal title was also divided between the two.  Divided legal title is important because, as a general rule in patent law, all the co-owners of a patent must agree to bring suit.

Surprisingly, the ex Mrs. Taylor refused to participate (not really, just thought I would throw in some sarcasm to see if you were paying attention).

So, following Florida marriage dissolution law, the district court  sided with the the ex and held that Mr. Taylor lacked standing to bring suit.

As a portion of its decision, the court also found that issue preclusion applies in this case to prevent the court from re-examining the question of patent ownership.  That means that Mr. Taylor really did get the short end of the stick for his invention.

How Can I Help?

Dissolution or divorce laws vary from state to state.  Here in California, you also have to be aware of community property rights.  All forms of intellectual property can be affected by a divorce.  So it is very important to understand the legal ramifications of any agreement regarding your intellectual property rights. To find out how I can protect your rights, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

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