Policy ForumIntellectual Property

Coauthorship and Coinventorship

Science  11 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5481, pp. 873-875
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5481.873

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Summary

Although the accepted criteria used for inclusion as author or inventor are similar, the average number of authors in scientific articles is significantly higher than the number of inventors on the corresponding patents. This finding can be attributed to an artificial inflation of coauthors, to the exclusion of coinventors, or--more probably--to a mix of both causes. This article argues that the discrepancy between the numbers of coauthors and inventors can have significant legal consequences, as the exclusion of an inventor can render a U.S. patent invalid or seriously harm its value. A proposal aiming to avoid such consequences and taking into account legal as well as authorship credit considerations is described.

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