Manufacturing Patents: Everything You Need to Know
Once you have decided to go ahead and patent your manufacturing method, it’s time to procure some experienced help, in other words, an intellectual property attorney3 min read
Manufacturing patents are patents that relate to the methods of manufacturing, generally referred to as utility patents or, in some cases, design patents. If you invent a product or a process, patenting it is just the first step. In the U.S., a patent is an exclusive right given by the United States government to an inventor.
The inventor can then use, sell, license, or manufacture the invention for a certain time period. Essentially, it is the conferring of a privilege or right. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the arm of the United States government who handles the granting of patents.
A patent is considered a property right to an invention that can have a monetary value or not. Patent law in the U. S. is centered on statutes in Title 35 of the U.S. Code, which includes the Patent Act of 1952.
Who Can Apply for a Manufacturing Patent?
Do you wonder who can apply for a patent? An inventor may fill out an application for a patent and be successful. Of course, there are exceptions. Inventors can contract with others who may manufacture their inventions and sell them. After a patent is conferred, an inventor may license his invention to others in exchange for a percentage of the profits, called royalties.
Some inventors do not patent their new manufacturing process but instead attempt to keep it secret. Unfortunately, this can backfire if a competitor beats them to the punch and patents the process before you do. If this happens, the competitor (who may have invented it first but failed to patent it) can be sued by the competitor, who did patent the process, for infringement. Some other issues with manufacturing patents include
- It can be expensive to patent a manufacturing method.
- It takes a long time to patent any invention.
- Manufacturing methods can be difficult to differentiate.
- Enforcement of the patent is up to the patent holder, and it can be difficult to police.
Patent and Intellectual Property Attorneys
Once you have decided to go ahead and patent your manufacturing method, it’s time to procure some experienced help, in other words, an intellectual property attorney. These attorneys are also called patent lawyers. A professional intellectual property attorney can help with the patent application and process.
Another decision you need to make is whether to license your patent or manufacture it yourself. This is another area where an experienced IP attorney can help. Drafting your licensing agreement and negotiating the terms are all within their skill set. You may wonder what a licensing agreement entails. It is the roadmap for any upfront payments, the number of royalties paid, the timing of royalty payments, and infringement liabilities.
A license doesn’t have to be an exclusive license. An attorney will also help you decide whether to grant exclusive or non-exclusive licenses. Non-exclusive licenses, much as their name implies, are with more than one company. While the owner, or licensor, still retains ownership of the patent, an exclusive license transfers manufacturing rights to the licensee.
An exclusive license also gives the right to sue for infringement to the licensee. Often, an exclusive patent license has a time limit. A qualified patent attorney can help you with all of these issues and reduce the likelihood that you have unintended consequences in the long term.
What Laws are On the Horizon in Patent Law?
Confidentiality has become an issue in patent ownership. Congress has recently sought to require increased openness around who owns a patent. There have been bills recently introduced that would require increased visibility into patent rights. This may include a requirement of additional licensing disclosures.
The complexity of some licensing agreements obscures individual licenses; they may not even be mentioned. The agreements are designed so that even parties to the license don’t necessarily know what exactly is licensed. While Congress and the courts may wish for more transparency, they may find it difficult to achieve that goal.
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