Jurisprudence récente – brevets – Colombie-Britannique: Attention aux clauses de redevances dans les contrats de cession de brevets

La Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique traite d’un cas intéressant où un inventeur veut obtenir des redevances d’un brevet pour lequel il avait cédé ces droits. Le document de cession ne contient pas de clauses de redevances, mais les parties avaient eu des ententes avant la signature du document de cession.

Voici des extraits de la décision:

[1]               The plaintiff is a medical doctor who was involved in the development of a medical device.  This device is a form of thermal ablation, designed to prevent menorrhagia, which is the medical term for unusual menstrual bleeding.  The defendants are the companies who now own the patent application for this device.  The issue is whether the plaintiff agreed to assign his interest in the patent for a royalty payment.

[20]           The meeting took place, as anticipated, on July 27, 1998.  All four members of the group attended and were appointed as directors, executives and members of the advisory committee as planned.  The following is the excerpt from the minutes: 

V         Douglas Yackel, James Elliott and Qiyi Luo present inventors and holders of patent application No. 2,232,726 with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, pending legal review, will agree to sign a letter agreement assigning the patent application to MDMI MFG Canada Ltd; the inventors will agree to this assignment conditional upon the following royalty schedule:

            Name                          % of Gross Sales

            Douglass Yackel                  1

            James Elliott                          1

            Qiyi Luo                                 1

VI         The Board moves the President is to incorporate a subsidiary company (100% owned by MDMI) pending the signing of a [sic] an agreement between Sparta and MDMI, and legal review.

VII        The Board moves that the uterine balloon technology rights covered by V above will be assigned by MDMI to the subsidiary company (VI above), pending legal review.

[25]           On August 31, 1998, the three applicants for the patent assigned their interest to MDMI Manufacturing Canada Ltd. for $1.00 each.  In September, a more thorough assignment was entered into which said the consideration was for $1.00 each and other good and valuable consideration.  There is no mention in either assignment document of any royalty agreement.

Issue
i)         Was there a valid royalty agreement that exists today?

[52]           Further, there was no mention of any royalties after the deal with the Rollke group fell through, even though the royalties were to be paid quarterly under that arrangement.  This is further evidence that the parties did not intend to collect royalties on the device if the Rollke deal collapsed.  They would be reimbursed through their shareholdings.  Without the funding from the Rollkes, the company could not afford to pay any royalties.  Indeed, it appears that it cannot afford to pay any now. 

[53]           I conclude that the royalty agreement was tied to the success of the Rollke funding.  Without this funding, there would be no royalties.  Further, I conclude that the parties always intended for the patent application to be transferred to a company, regardless of any royalty arrangement.  I base these conclusions on the evidence noted above. 

Voir les détails de la décision ici.

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