contract : CAFC Alert

A Federal Circuit Lesson on the Structuring of Employment Agreements to Ensure That a Company Owns Its Employees’ Inventions

Stephen Parker | July 25, 2012

Preston v. Marathon Oil Company and Thomas Smith

July 10, 2012

Panel:  Bryson, Dyk and O’Malley.  Opinion by O’Malley.

Summary

In this case, an employee, Yale Preston (“Preston”), executed an employment agreement about one month after starting to work as an employee for Marathon Oil Company (“Marathon”).   Whether or not the execution of an agreement after starting employment requires further consideration beyond “continued employment” varies based on state law.   Here, the Federal Circuit held that no further consideration was required under Wyoming state law and that the employer, Marathon, owned the invention at issue by virtue of the employment agreement.   The Federal Circuit further held that Preston did not breach the employment agreement by failing to later sign a subsequent assignment because the employment agreement included the language “does hereby assign” in relation to future inventions, whereby the invention at issue was assigned to Marathon by the employment agreement regardless of whether the invention was after the execution of the employment agreement.


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