Companies and individuals stand to make a lot of money by acquiring a patent. Therefore, there is the possibility that parties out there will want to infringe on the patent in order to get some of the money for themselves. There are systems in place to enforce your right to a patent, but you will need to seek it out on your own. The Patent and Trademark Office does not enforce patents, so if you want to take someone to court over an infringement case, then you will need to carry that out on your own. Here are some of the most common inquiries people have about what protections they are given for their patents.
1. Question: What Protections Do You Have While Filing a Patent?
Before filing, you are free to develop anything you like. No one can come along and stop you, but you really do not have any legal protections. The exception would be trade secret laws, which entail someone, maybe a friend, seeing you developing this new invention. Then that individual goes and makes the exact same thing. This falls under trade secret, and you may be entitled to some form of legal recourse.
Once your application is filed, you are allowed to use the designation of “Patent Pending.” This lets everyone know that your application is under review and that if they get caught making or distributing your product after the patent is cleared, then they can be sued. It is illegal to say you have a patent pending when you do not actually have one.
After the patent is approved, you are entitled to the exclusive rights. You can license out to manufacturers, and these rights last for 20 years. You are able to sue others who infringe on your patent. After 20 years, anyone can utilize your patent.
2. Question: What Rights Does a Patent Owner Have?
When you own a patent, no one else is allowed to use, create, import or sell the invention the patent covers. Basically, no one else can claim that they independently came up with this idea because it already exists within the legal system. You are able to sue anyone who infringes on your patent so that you can attempt to acquire damages.
3. Question: How Do You Determine That Infringement Has Occurred?
There are a couple ways a court would be able to determine that a new invention infringes on a previous patent. The first way is figuring out if the infringing party uses the same claims that were in the patent in question. The legal definition of “claims” is components within a patent that makes the invention unique. A patent could have claims consisting of X, Y and Z. If the invention being discussed uses W, X, Y and Z, then it would still be viewed as infringing because it is using all the same ones and just adding another claim. However, if the invention has claims R, T and Y, then it would not be infringing. It shares one claim but is still missing key components.
There is also the Doctrine of Equivalents. The basic rule is that an invention will be viewed as infringing on a present patent if it can be proved that it is performing basically the same function in essentially the same way in order to obtain the exact same result. Limits exist for the Doctrine of Equivalents, and legal counsel would be able to assist you in determining if this field should be brought up in your case.
Every patent case is different, so the best course of action if you believe someone has infringed on your patent is to get the assistance of a patent attorney. Legal counsel will give you a better sense of what your rights are and what you are able to do.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.