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Hendersons - Barristers' Chambers
Articles Employment 16th Dec 2013

Employee Patent Compensation


The Patents Court has handed down judgment in Shanks v Unilever plc & others, in which Patrick Green appeared for Professor Shanks, the successful appellant.

ISSUE: When an employer has assigned an invention or patent to a connected company, how does this affect the (employee) inventor’s right to an award of a fair share of any outstanding benefit, under sections 40 and 41 of the Patents Act 1977? 


Professor Shanks is claiming an award of up to £40m compensation from Unilever Plc (and other Unilever companies), under sections 40 and 41 of the Patents Act 1977, which provide that an employee inventor is entitled to a fair share of any “outstanding benefit” which his employer derives from his invention1. Professor Shanks was employed by Unilever’s research company, “CRL”. His invention, in the early 1980s, was a capillary fill device which could be used for monitoring blood glucose levels. On 13th June 1984, Professor Shanks’s invention was assigned to Unilever Plc for £100, with a later confirmatory assignment for another £100. So, CRL (his employer) did not receive an outstanding benefit from this.

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