Community Forum – Rewards for Patents

Resource Type
Survey (Community Forum)
Innovation Research Interchange
Employee Innovation, Breakthrough Innovation
Associated Event
How does your company reward people who are granted patents?

We are trying to harmonize the various practices across our company for rewarding people who receive patents and would like to benchmark other companies. Could you answer these 4 questions:

1. What reward, if any, does your company give for filing a patent application?
2. What reward, if any, does your company give when a patent is granted?
3. Any special recognition when certain milestones are achieved (10th patent granted for example)?
4. What reward, if any, does your company give for trademarks?

Please comment on any other IP awards (dinners, etc.) your company may practice.  Thanks in advance for your help. – Ted Farrington, Senior Director, Pepsico Advanced Research

Community Responses

Luc Adriaenssens, SVP of Technology, CommScope (a leading telecom infrastructure provider)​
We’ve spent considerable time optimizing our Patent Award system over the years.  Below is a summary of our current program, including specifics, rationale where relevant, and unintended consequences to watch out for:

  • We recognize inventors with cash award both upon filing and upon issuance.  We have found that this split approach is necessary to ensure all inventors are responsive to attorney reviews, etc.  Payment amounts vary by country the inventor resides in.  For US inventors, the payments for utility applications (not for provisionals) are:
    • Sole inventor: $1500 upon filing +  $1500 upon issuance
    • Two inventors: $1000 upon filing + $1000 upon issuance ß per inventor
    • Three or more: $2250 upon filing + $2250 upon issuance ß split between inventors
    • We have found that the above is a good balance between inclusion of multiple inventors on patents where increments to the invention are material and the unintended consequence of incentives.
    • Design patents pay half the above amounts.  No cash compensation is provided for continuations, divisionals, nor foreign counterparts.  Continuations-in-part are generally treated like new utility applications.
    • Contractors are also eligible for cash rewards at the BU management’s discretion (rationale varies by situation).
    • We closely scrutinize filings where inventors are a mix of managers and subordinates to ensure the managers’ contributions are significant as opposed to “riding along”.  Unfortunately, that level of scrutiny has been necessary in a few cases.  Just putting in and communicating controls like this tends to avoid the possibility of a problem.
    • Our legal department runs a list of planned patent payments on a semi-annual basis.  This list is reviewed with the patent liaisons (primary IP management person in the BU, usually the R&D director) in each business unit for accuracy.  We do find/correct errors during this review.  One area we are in the process of refining is the tie-in with payroll.  Currently, the payment shows up on the direct deposit paycheck summary with a cryptic code that is meaningless to the inventor.  Since patents generally issue many years after filing, the inventor often has no clue what the payment is for.  That causes extra investigation for many and is a lost opportunity to reinforce the intent of the program.  We are exploring whether our systems can add a reference number that has meaning to the inventor and alert the inventor beforehand of the coming pleasant surprise.   Some of the more prolific inventors track if/when they got their payment.   We have also considered making patent payments a separate physical check but concluded the cons exceed the pros.
    • We have no recognition of key milestones (such as 10th patent issued) as noted in the original question.  We do have a provision where our CEO can provide a one-time payment to particularly valuable patents, although as far as I know, we have never done that.  There are clearly pros and cons to communicating such a provision in terms of setting expectations.
    • We don’t provide compensation or recognition of trademarks.
  • We also recognize inventors upon filing with a certificate and upon issuance with a nice engraved plaque showing the front page of the patent.
    • Both are handed to inventors by either our president, COO, or CTO in person during a building-wide meeting at their location on a semi-annual basis (i.e. public recognition in front of their peers).    Note that we don’t give them a check at this meeting since sometimes inventor lists are controversial among peers (we rely on attorneys to determine inventorship using the standard legal test on whether at least one claim was added based on their contribution).  We do this during the day without spouses or significant others.  We’ve concluded that the public recognition in front of their peers is more impactful than a dinner with only patent recipients present.
    • We ensure each location takes a picture of inventor with the CxO and publish it in our monthly newsletter.  Based on click-through rates, it is one of the most popular articles.  That fact highlights the importance of the peer-recognition aspect.
    • Upon issuance, inventors also get a letter from the head of legal with copy to all up to our CEO congratulating them.  The main benefit of this impersonal communication is to alert the management chain of the issuance so they can follow up in person.  Pats-on-the-back are free and thus a great bang-for-the-buck investment.
  • Additional information:
    • We have a procedure where inventors make written proposals (patent which R&D department heads) review to assess cost/benefit of protecting and agree on optimal timing of filing.  Such controls are essential to assure A) you don’t incent filing of junk in areas with less involved 1st line managers, or B) a long string of continuations (due to filing too early).

Hope that helps.  Please e-mail me if the above triggers follow-up questions.

Russ Schwartz, VP Pigments Technology, Sun Chemical​
1. What reward, if any, does your company give for filing a patent application?  $150
2. What reward, if any, does your company give when a patent is granted?  $300
3. Any special recognition when certain milestones are achieved (10th patent granted for example)?  No.
4. What reward, if any, does your company give for trademarks?  None.

Please comment on any other IP awards (dinners, etc.) your company may practice.  Luncheons with awards ceremonies are typically performed at central lab locations.  In addition, a very nice award in the form of a small desk sized sculpture is selected each year to commemorate patents granted.

Ed Bernstein, IRI President​
In 2009, IRI conducted an international research study along with our sister organizations in Europe, Japan and Korea. Each organization surveyed its own members regarding rewards for individual innovators who file patents. The results of this international research effort were first published by EIRMA (EIRMA’s quarterly newsletter, eIQ, published on April 15, 2009). IRI summarized and linked to this publication in our May Newsletter of that year. The conclusion as quoted from IRI News was “The rewards for individual innovators who file patents, develop new products or create new processes depend strongly on where their companies are based, according to a global survey of industrial R&D managers. The results suggest that companies that are doing research outside their home countries need to think carefully about developing consistent award schemes and incentive policies that also fit with local practices.”

Summary of Responses

Robert Slone, Global R&D Director – Core R&D, The Dow Chemical Company​
Currently, a recognition coin engraved with the patent number, inventor’s name and Dow logo is delivered in a presentation box to inventors within Dow Chemical.  In the past, our inventors were invited to an annual dinner to recognize their IP contributions.

I have also seen other companies pay inventors a cash award (e.g. a couple hundred dollars per granted patent).  While the dinner and cash were enjoyable, the recognition coin stays with the inventor for a longer time period.

Tim Phillips, Senior Engineering Manager – Power NA Anticipation, Schneider Electric
We have global awards for IP activity.  Upon filing, we award individual inventors in the USA $4,000, and multiple inventors $4,800 shared among them.

There is no award for when the patent is granted, however, we do evaluate each granted patent a year or so after granting, to assess its business value.  A further award is given to each inventor based on a rating scale.  This second award can be a lot larger than the initial one, for a patent that has large business value, or it could be small (or even zero) for others.  We do not appear to have any special recognition based on number of patent granted.  We currently have no strong scheme for handling trademarks, or trade secrets, though it has been discussed on numerous occasions.

Each business location seems to handle patent awards differently.  Some locations have quarterly recognition dinners, some hand out patent plaques in all-employee meetings, and staff meetings.

Nanako Mura, Associate Director – Open Innovation and Knowledge Management, Kraft
Special recognition and rewards are given only to the first issued patent in a family. When the first issued patent is granted several things happen:

  1. The inventor(s) are sent a letter by the CEO and also from the SVP of R&D recognizing them for their patent.  The inventor’s manager is also sent a letter as well so that the manager can recognize the inventor locally.
  2. Once per year, an annual dinner is held at one designated location and all first issued patent inventors globally and their spouses are flown in and invited to a formal dinner at a hotel and provided overnight accommodations. The inventor is introduced by the VP of their area and given a plaque.
  3. If the patent was commercialized, the inventor is also given a monetary award. The amount is subject to local guidelines but can be up to $1000.
  4. The first inventor named on the patent is also listed on the patent wall at the R&D centers.

No other recognition is given for other achievements or milestones or for trademarks.

Stewart Witzeman, Director, Eastman Research Division, Eastman Chemical Company​
We recognize key stages of the patent process by non-monetary, but significant recognitions.

Every year we have an Inventors’ Banquet. All employees (and their guest) who have either had an Invention Report (the disclosure that starts the patent process) or a US Patent Issued in the preceding year are invited to this event. This is a major event that includes senior management, including our CEO and CTO. Awards are presented at this banquet for first Patent as well as milestone awards for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, etc. patents.  On occasion, but not at every banquet, we award a career achievement award as well. This award is based on a body of work that has had significant and tangible business results.  Our technical community seems to really like this event and in particular like the inclusion of their significant others.

In addition to this, all inventors are presented with a silver dollar for every US Patent application that is filed. This is typically presented by their line management in a regular group meeting.

Finally, we reinforce the importance of patents by publishing a monthly listing of patents issued in the preceding month with the inventor’s name in our on-line internal newsletter.

We do not offer set monetary awards per patent but management has a mechanism where they can give discretionary awards for significant technical achievements. This can include patents or achievement of other major milestones.

Ravi Godbole, Global Research & Sp Projects, AGCO
We have established local and global patent councils to manage this activity.  AGCO being a global company, the award practices vary slightly yet we have come up with a common theme.

1)  Some business units give out a smaller incentive (dinner certificate for employee + spouse/family) for each idea submitted to the council.  Most business units have a small monetary award ($100) for each patent application filed.  In future we also want to recognize outstanding ideas that are helpful for our business but could not be patented necessarily.

2)  There is a bigger monetary award when the patent is granted ($250 and above).  In some countries the inventor is required to be paid a small amount every year in accordance with local law.

3)  Based on the number and quality of patents applied by each inventor (we have a simple scorecard for that), we select Innovation Award winners for each business unit.  They are recognized at local staff gatherings and also via special global announcement from our SVP of Engineering.  Every other year we select the very best amongst these as Regional Innovation Award winners (three total).  Each winner and their spouse are invited to our HQ for a special function and our CEO hands them their award in the presence of entire Sr. Staff.  Each business unit also maintains a Master Inventor Wall and the names of inventors go on that wall after 10 patents on their name.  Master inventors are also recognized in a special global announcement.

4)  Not applicable so far.

We continue to improve and harmonize these policies as we learn other best practices.

Steven McMaster, Director of Technology Deployment, Idaho National Laboratory
1. What reward, if any, does your company give for filing a patent application?

INL provides a small cash incentive for filing a patent ($100).

2. What reward, if any, does your company give when a patent is granted?

INL provides a small cash incentive ($700).

3. Any special recognition when certain milestones are achieved (10th patent granted for example)?

5 patents-  $500
10 patents- $1K
15 patents- $1.5K
20 patents- $2K (+ $500 for each additional 5 patents)
Recognition at annual Honors Banquet, membership in INL Inventors Hall of Fame

4. What reward, if any, does your company give for trademarks?


Note:  INL also shares 30% of royalties received with inventors (patented or copyrighted invention).

Director, large integrated energy company​
1. What reward, if any, does your company give for filing a patent application?

We provide no reward or recognition for patent applications.

2. What reward, if any, does your company give when a patent is granted?

For issued U.S. patents, my company provides a small monetary award to each of the inventors.  This is provided in the monthly paycheck of each inventor approximately one month after the patent is formally issued.

3. Any special recognition when certain milestones are achieved (10th patent granted for example)?

No special recognition for any patent milestones

4. What reward, if any, does your company give for trademarks?

No rewards for trademarks.

Manager, Large chemical company​
1. What reward, if any, does your company give for filing a patent application?

No reward for filing a patent application.

2. What reward, if any, does your company give when a patent is granted?

Inventors receive a plaque recognizing them as an inventor and a small plate is added to a wall plaque in the R&D facility that recognizes all of the patents granted to the company.  Plaques are often awarded during an R&D function with the majority of R&D and business leadership in attendance.

3. Any special recognition when certain milestones are achieved (10th patent granted for example)?


4. What reward, if any, does your company give for trademarks?


Director, large building materials company
1. What reward, if any, does your company give for filing a patent application?
$1,000 (total) split amongst the inventors
2. What reward, if any, does your company give when a patent is granted?
an engraved plaque for each inventor, presented at a public meeting of R&D employees
3. Any special recognition when certain milestones are achieved (10th patent granted for example)?
4. What reward, if any, does your company give for trademarks?

IRI Emeritus Member​
Speaking from my experience as patent counsel of two major corporations and vice president/chief technology officer of one of them, I have reviewed all of the patent awards mentioned plus awards for submitting the invention disclosure in the first place. They all have merit as well as limitations and depend on the culture of your organization and what you are trying to accomplish. Most companies probably do not have any awards program.

The most important award to the inventor is being recognized by fellow workers and by management. One of my present clients has wall plaques of the first page of the patent in the lobby. They also have a gala event once every two years for the new inventors as well as the old inventors. The patent lawyers are invited as well as the inventors’ spouses/companions. Brief speeches are made by management on the inventions patented in the past two years. This gala event has worked out very well for them.

I have never heard of awards for trademarks.

Greg Shaw, Director, Technology Development, Swagelok​
We use a multi-tiered approach.  Each named inventor receives $100 when the patent is filed.  The goal is to provide some relatively immediate feedback to them on their accomplishment.  Each named inventor also receives a check for $250 when the patent issues.  In addition, we hold a lunch event (offsite and relatively nice) each year called, “Honoring Innovation.”  Each inventor is recognized as a brief description of the invention is read by the MC.  The inventors receive wood and brass plaques with the name of the invention and the abstract from the patent.  We also have permanently displayed plaque (one in each of our 3 largest facilities) recognizing inventors with milestone numbers of patents: 5, 10, 25 and 50.

The presentation of the patent plaques is combined with recognition of other innovations, implemented during the previous year, that are not patentable.  These range from product innovations to manufacturing process innovations to business process innovations.  The goal is to help each individual associate recognize that they can be innovative contributors, no matter their role or formal training.

Peter J. Oleske, Manager, New Knowledge Acquisition and Protection, Armstrong Building Products​
1.  Our company provides a $500 award to each inventor upon the filing of a patent application.

2.  We award another $500 to each inventor listed on the patent once it has issued.

3.  Finally we award an additional $500 to each inventor if the issued patent is actually being used by the company.  In all cases the awards are issued with tax assistance so that the recipient receives the full award amount.

4.  I do not believe that we provide any awards for trademarks; however we do recognize Trade Secrets.  With assistance from our patent department we will assess whether the IP we plan to keep as a trade secret would have been patentable and if so we will provide the same ($1500) monetary award that would have been given for an issued patent which is being used.

With regard to other types of recognition, at our bi-monthly department meetings any newly issued patents (and the inventors) are recognized in front of the broader group.  As part of the proceeding we describe not only the invention but also how we plan on applying the newly acquired IP to address the needs of the business.  Additionally, prior to some business unit realignments, we had posted framed photographs of all the patent recipients for a given year in a prominent hallway of our technical center.  The 8”x10” portraits would be up for one year, however there was also a permanent display hosting pictures of all those who held 25 or more patents.  We intend to reestablish this “wall of fame” in the near future.

Stephen R Postle, Executive Director of Technology, Sun Chemical Corporation
Patent awards in our corporation are as follows:

$300 for the first issuance of a patent in either US or Europe.

$150 for a priority patent filing other than a provisional.

$150 for a trade secret that exhibits a significant financial benefit to the company.

In all 3 cases, a small commemorative statue is given to each inventor as well as the cash award.  The design of the statue is changed each year.