We have previously noted that assignments executed solely by the assignor (e.g., an inventor when assigning rights to their employer) are technically deficient in Europe due to a difference between U.S. and European law. In particular, Article 72 of the European Patent Convention (EPC) requires assignments to bear “the signature of the parties to the contract,” while contract law in the U.S. considers a contract signed only by the conveying party to be valid for this type of one-way conveyance.
The America Invents Act (AIA) introduced several changes to inventor oath/declaration practice that took effect in 2012. One such change is the ability to incorporate an inventor’s required declaration statements into an assignment document, thereby reducing the number of documents that must be executed by an inventor in connection with filing a patent application. If an applicant elects to go this route, a single combined declaration and assignment document can be recorded at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and a copy will be automatically placed in the application’s file wrapper. It appears to be the case, however, that this automatic copying by the USPTO of the combined declaration and assignment into the file wrapper for an application triggers a Notice of Incomplete Reply if there is an outstanding Notice to File Missing Parts or Notice to File Corrected Application Papers that identifies a deficiency in addition to the lack of an oath/declaration—despite the fact that the applicant has not made any reply to such a notice.
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