Taylor v. Taylor Made Plastics: Implications of Divorce on Title to Patent

Category: Civil Procedure 

By: Christian Hannon, Contributor 
TitleTaylor v. Taylor Made Plastics, Inc., No. 2014-1212 (Fed. Cir. May 9, 2014)(non-precedential).
Issue[Did] James T. lack[] standing because Mary T. [,James T.'s ex-wife,] was a co-owner of the '566 patent by virtue of the divorce, and she had not joined the suit.
Taylor at 2 (txt added).
Holding[Yes,] [t]he long-established rule is that a suit for patent infringement must join all co-owners of the patent as plaintiffs.
Id. at *3 (text added).
Procedural HistoryJames Taylor appeals the dismissal of his patent infrignement suit by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The district court held that James T. lacked standing because he was not the sole owner of the patent and his co-owner did not join the suit.
Taylor at *2.
Legal Reasoning (Dyk, Reyna, and Taranto) (Per Curiam)
The '566 PatentJames T. is the inventor of U.S. Patent No. 5,806,566 [the '566 patent], which is directed to a "storm drainage conduit plug and sealing band therefor." At the time James T. obtained the '566 patent he was married to a woman named Mary Louisa Taylor (Mary T.).
Taylor at *2.
Split in Legal Title of PatentAs part of its final judgmenet dissolving the marriage [between Mary T. and James T.] the Florida circuit court ordered an equitable distribution of marital property. [...] The circuit court found that the Taylors' main assets were the pipe plug patents, which were marital property subject to equitable distribution. Based on its assessment of the equities, the court ordered that proceeds "from the production of the patents" be split unequally, with 60% going to Mary T. and 40% to James T.
Id. at *2-3.
Applicable Law: All parties holding Legal Title To A Patent Must Join Suit[A] suit for patent infringement must join all co-owners of the patent as plaintiffs. If any co-owner should refuse to join as a co-plaintiff, the suit must be dismissed fro lack of standing. But a party is not co-owner of a patent for standing purposes merely becuase he or she holds an equitable interest in the patent. Rather, a co-owner must hold legal title to the patent.
Id. at *3-4.
Taylor at *4.

 Image Attribution Statement: Yehuda Pen, “Divorce,” available as a public domain image due to expired patent, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yury_Pen-Divorce.jpg (last visited Oct. 4, 2014) (imaged edited).
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