Case details

Shanks (Appellant) v Unilever Plc and others (Respondents)

Case ID: UKSC 2017/0032

Case summary


What amounts to an "outstanding benefit" for the purposes of determining whether an employee who has made an invention belonging to an employer for which a patent has been granted is entitled to compensation pursuant to s.40(1) of the Patents Act 1977?


During the course of his employment with Unilever, Professor Shanks invented a device designed to measure glucose concentrations in blood, serum or urine. The rights to the invention belonged to Unilever, which subsequently obtained patents in respect of the invention. Some years later, these patents were licensed to companies operating in the blood glucose testing field. Professor Shanks brought a claim for employee compensation against Unilever pursuant to s.40(1) of the Patents Act 1977. The Intellectual Property Office concluded that the financial benefit to Unilever from licensing the patent rights was £24.5m, but that this was not an "outstanding" benefit as required by the terms of s.40(1). This conclusion was upheld by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Judgment appealed

[2017] EWCA Civ 2



Professor Ian Alexander Shanks

  1. Unilever Plc
  2. Unilever NV
  3. Unilever UK Central Resources Ltd



Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Hodge, Lady Black, Lord Kitchin

Hearing start date

06 Feb 2019

Hearing finish date

07 Feb 2019

Watch hearing
06 Feb 2019 Morning session Afternoon session
07 Feb 2019 Morning session