Andreaggi v. Relis

171 N.J. Super. 203 (1979)

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Andreaggi v. Relis

New Jersey Superior Court
171 N.J. Super. 203 (1979)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

In 1958, Matthew Relis (defendant) was hired at Curtiss-Wright (CW) to perform administrative functions and design work as needed. Relis had a background in electrical engineering and at CW managed the digital computer department. Relis signed an employment agreement in which he agreed to disclose and assign all his rights, title, and interest in “any and all inventions” he might make while employed by CW to CW, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. Relis further agreed to cooperate in obtaining patents over any such inventions. In 1961, while fully employed by CW and following discussion with a railroad client, Relis and two other employees had the idea to develop a device that would simultaneously generate a document that could be read by the human eye and a machine (Magdop). The trio of inventors drew schematics for circuitry, assembled the hardware, and constructed a model, though not a completed product. The trio filed 16 invention-disclosure (ID) forms, describing Relis’s inventive process in detail. Meanwhile, CW was experiencing financial issues. In late 1963 and early 1964, one of the Magdop inventors, Joseph Andreaggi (plaintiff) was terminated due to general cutbacks. Andreaggi orally offered to purchase the Magdop project, and CW agreed. In May 1964, Relis executed an assignment of IDs related to Magdop to CW, its successors, and its assigns. The assignment agreement obligated Relis to cooperate and execute appropriate documents in the patenting process. In 1965, CW terminated Relis, again for financial reasons. In 1966, like before, Relis executed another assignment of IDs related to Magdop to CW and CW’s assigns. Thereafter, CW sold all its rights, title, and interests in Magdop to Andreaggi and assigned all the related IDs to Andreaggi. Andreaggi assigned part of his rights to another party, Robert Graf (plaintiff). In the 1970s, Andreaggi and Graf applied for and obtained patents covering Magdop. Relis refused to assign his rights to the patents. Andreaggi and Graf sued Relis to compel Relis to assign his interest in the patents. Relis argued in part that he had no duty to assign because he had not made an assignable invention while employed at CW, that is, a complete, perfected, and reduced-to-practice working model.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Dwyer, J.)

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