Each co-owner of a jointly held patent can make, use, sell and license the patented invention. Licensing is the main concern with a jointly owned patent since each co-owner can grant non-exclusive licenses without having to obtain the consent of other joint owners. Joint patent ownership can create a messy situation where no single patent owner has the ability to grant an exclusive license or stop others from licensing the patent. The value of the patent may be diminished in the eyes of potential acquirers or licensees.
Since patent ownership starts with the inventors under U.S. patent law, the problem of joint IP ownership occurs more frequently in patents having multiple inventors. Steps should be taken early on to transfer the patent rights of each co-inventor to an entity (e.g., company) through a written Patent Assignment. A fully signed copy of the Patent Assignment identifying each patent or application should be recorded with the USPTO to provide the public with adequate notice of the chain of title.