patent rights after death

"What happens to my patent when I die" is one of the questions I often get from inventors and/or their families.  My response is a typical lawyerly and thoughtful answer: it depends.

Generally, patent rights are granted by the federal government but it is state law that controls how those rights are passed on or distributed after the death of an inventor.  Patent rights may be assigned

    • during the life of an owner (i.e. through an assignment),
    • distributed through a will, or
    • pass according to the state's laws dealing with the issue of what happens to property if there is no valid will.

    For more information on the legal procedures for transferring patent rights, download DCR's short PDF paper "Patent Rights After the Death of An Inventor."  As with all estate planning, determining how a patent, patent application or invention is dealt with upon the death of the inventor is something that should occur sooner rather than later in order to avoid unnecessary fighting and arguing among heirs.