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 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 four-, eight-, 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 four, eight, 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.
  • As of Dec. 1, 2015, a patent owner is required to submit substantial details when filing a lawsuit.
  • Be aware 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. 

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.  

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.