Two inventors shared compensation of £1.5m after a recent High Court ruling recognised their roles in inventing a patented health care product.
Dotors James Kelly and Kwok Wai Chiu were awarded £1m and £500,000 respectively in compensation against GE Healthcare.
The pair had worked as research scientists for Amersham International in the 1980s and 1990s before it was acquired by GE Healthcare.
The award recognised their contributions to the development of a heart imaging agent called Myoview which has generated sales in excess of £1.3bn. The claimants were co-inventors of compounds which formed the basis of Myoview and which were covered by two patents.
Kelly and Chiu lodged their claims under section 40 of the Patents Act 1977, which says that a court may award compensation to an employee inventor where a patent is of “outstanding benefit to the employer”.
This was later amended by the Patents Act 2004 which makes compensation payable when the invention, and not just the patent, has been of outstanding benefit.
The judge, Mr Justice Floyd, said: “Dr Kelly directed the project to a successful conclusion on a modest research spend and under considerable pressure to produce results. Dr Chiu made monumental efforts in how own sphere of responsibility.”
Law firm McDermott Wills & Amery said: “This case is highly significant as it is the first time that the UK courts have awarded compensation to employee inventors under this law, even though it has been in force since 1977.
“The relevant law was amended in 2005 so as to widen the scope of the relevant outstanding benefit obtained by the defendant to include the invention as well as the patent itself.
“This case … will inevitably lead to increased interest in claims for employee inventor compensation in the UK.”
DKelly retired in 2003, when his salary was £71,500.