Expired patents for sale are available 20 years from the day the patents were filed. Once expired, it leaves the patent open for others to replicate it without breaking any laws. Patents also expire because the inventors are not consistent in the payment process, and the patent is considered abandoned and eligible for sale.

Benefits of Expired Patents for Sale

  • Patents that have expired after the 4-, 8-, and 12-year mark may be reinstated by the USPTO by paying hefty fees and/or providing valid excuses.
  • Fees that are technically due prior to the scheduled 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years are eligible to be paid within the six-month grace period if the patent owner pays a $150 fee, which must be submitted with the renewal fees.
  • When someone purchases an expired patent, it is less work for the buyer, as all work has already been completed by the previous owner. This allows the new owner to focus on improving the quality and functionality of the invention.
  • Unlike the utility patent, plant and design patents do not expire until 14 years from their file dates. Neither patent requires maintenance fees.

Cons of Expired Patents for Sale

  • If maintenance fees are ignored and not paid to the USPTO after the designated amount of time of 4, 8, and 12 years, a utility patent will expire.
  • Old patents that have expired tend to attract legal situations and lawsuits.
  • Expiring patents can end up in court as infringement claims.
  • Businesses and corporations sometimes turn a profit by buying old patents and then suing for infringement.
  • Be aware that as a patent moves through the E1, E2, and E3 tranches, the fees will increase.

Steps for Searching Expired Patents for Sale

  • The first step is to do a patent search.
  • Google Patents Advanced Search is a viable option.
  • Make a note of the publication number and the patent number for those you are interested in.
  • Use the free database search for expired patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Search the database using the publication number or the patent number.
  • Look for the patent's status. If it is active, it will show Patented, Expired, or Abandon.
  • Consult with a patent attorney before assuming a patent is abandoned or expired.

Buyers of Expiring Patents See Profit in Infringement Claims

Patents can end up in the hands of speculators, and they might go to court with infringement claims versus other companies in an effort of a large payoff. This might be by going to trial or from forcing settlements. Some of the most prolific suers in the country can find new life in patents that are close to the end of a 20-year term or patents that have lapsed. Sometimes, the buyers of older patents are firms that turn to sue for infringement or licensing them a business.

Half of the patents from lawsuits are from licensing firms in the 1990s, while the rest are from the early 2000s. Examples of businesses that sold patents that ended up being used later in litigation are Cypress Semiconductor Corp., Xerox, General Electric Co., and Boston Scientific Corp.

Xerox only represents a small portion of companies that transferred or sold patents that turned into lawsuits. Many of the businesses that sold patents to licensing firms so other companies could be sued ended up being the targets of similar lawsuits. The federal government has made it harder on some patent litigants.

There have been dozens of patents that judges threw out since June 2014, when the Supreme Court set a new test to see if software covers more than a single concept. Many others have been challenged successfully at the patent office.

As of Dec. 1, 2015, a patent owner is required to submit substantial details when filing a lawsuit. The week before this went into effect, over 500 lawsuits were filed, and all but one patent went back to ideas from the 1990s. It's thought that many patents from that time period were overbroad and very broad. eDekka LLC, the most prolific suer of 2014, ended up filing over 200 lawsuits against website operators and retailers that were using shopping carts on their sites. This patent was first sought back in 1992.

FAQs

  • When do patents expire?

Patents expire 20 years from their file date.

  • I understand there are periodic maintenance periods. What are they called?

Expiration periods are called tranches. They are set at E1, E2, and E3.

  • What happens after I pay my E1 renewal?

Once the E1 renewal is paid to the USPTO, the patent then moves on to E2. The rolling expiration date will also move ahead by an additional four years.

  • Do the maintenance fees stay the same?

No. The fees will increase as you move through the tranches.

  • What is the rolling expiration field used for?

There are several benefits to using the rolling expiration date field. You can find current patents that are due for renewal, in the grace period, and expired.

  • How does an E1 tranche operate?

For example, a patent issued this year would be placed in the E1 tranche. Its rolling expiration date would fall exactly four years from the date it was issued. At the end of four years, the patent will expire if the patent owner did not pay the maintenance fees to the USPTO. Once the payment is received, the patent moves to E2. At that time, the rolling expiration date will be moved ahead four years.

  • What happens when the patent reaches the E3 level?

Once the patent reaches an E3 level and the maintenance fee is paid, the expiration date will change to the full term date of the patent.

  • Do I need an attorney when considering expired patents for sale?

Speaking with a patent attorney is something to consider prior to making any purchases of expired patents, as there may be related patents active and available.

Amazon's Multi-billion Dollar Patent Expired In 2017

Amazon 1-Click has made the company a large amount of money since it came out. Amazon applied for the patent in 1997, and they were granted the patent in 1999. The basis of the proposition is that when you store your address and payment information, you'll only need to click one button to buy items. This means you'll have fewer steps to ordering overall, which takes less time and is known as frictionless.

It was suggested that the 1-Click business may be worth close to the $2.4 billion that Amazon is. While it's undeniable that there's an advantage to ordering something quickly, the primary advantage is forming an experience that isn't easily found on any other online store.

However, there is an exception to this, which is Apple. They use their own version of this system and pays a sum of money that's undisclosed in order to do this. Many users will notice that the app store has a very similar ordering system, as it's easy and quick. If you had to take the time to add apps to the cart first and then check out, it would most likely decrease sales. This proves Amazon's point regarding this system.

That said, the path for 1-Click isn't completely clear. The European Union will not grant Amazon a patent for it. They defined the technology as reliant on previous art and too obvious. The argument was mainly around the fact that Amazon is only setting cookies, which any retailer could do and produce identical results. Canada originally wouldn't issue a patent to Amazon for their 1-Click feature, but a legal battle was fought and the patent ended up being issued in 2011. Due to this, Canada redid their guidelines regarding patent applications.

Europe and Canada weren't the only ones who didn't think Amazon's patent was justified, as Australia rejected the claim as well over several points. It's certain that Amazon would like to keep their patent, but it's unlikely to have a huge impact like it might have in the past. The company is now known for selling a large range of products and delivering them quickly.

1-Click was a great idea when it came out, but Amazon now has a large amount of brand loyalty that's been built up. Most people won't shop at another store even if they had a single button to purchase items. Amazon is also thinking of bigger ideas on a constant basis that will bring in higher profits in the coming years.

If you need help with expired patents for sale or the patent application process, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.