According to U.S. patent law, only the inventor may apply for an invention patent. As in most law, there are exceptions. But if a person who is not the inventor applies for a patent, even if it were obtained, the patent would be invalid.

The person applying in such a case - who has falsely stated that he or she is the inventor - along with having an invalid patent - would also be subject to criminal penalties.


If the actual inventor is dead, the patent application may be made by legal representatives of the inventor - that is - the administrator or executor of the estate.

If the inventor is insane - which does happen - the application for an invention patent may be made by a guardian.

If the inventor refuses to apply for a patent or cannot be found, a joint inventor or a person who has a “proprietary interest” in the invention may apply on behalf of the missing, or non-signing, inventor.

If two or more people make an invention jointly, they must apply for a patent as joint inventors. To be a joint inventor, each such inventor must make an original contribution to the invention - or the invention must be as a result of joint input indeterminable as to how the point of “invention” was reached.

A person who just makes a financial contribution cannot be named as a joint inventor. Any “rights” to an invention by such a contributor would be established through a contract or licensing agreement on the completed invention patent.

If there is an innocent mistake of omitting an inventor or erroneously naming a person who is not - it is possible to correct such a mistake - IF IT IS INNOCENT. If on purpose, you are looking at the criminal penalties mentioned above.

It may make you feel better to know that officers and employees of the USPTO are prohibited by law from applying for a patent - or directly or indirectly acquiring a patent or any right or interest in an invention patent - EXCEPT (another exception) - if it comes to them by inheritance or bequest. This is another protection for your invention patent application built into the system - so it cannot be ripped off from the inside.

So - now you see why it is important to keep your journal on your invention - and have it witnessed and signed through each step in the progression to the final product (as we have discussed on other pages). Proof of the date of invention - and the diligent progress of developing the invention are critical - especially when two or more people claim to have invented the same thing.

Believe me - it does happen - sometimes more than you would want to think.

For more information on patents and inventions, try here: