Obtaining a patent can be a difficult and costly experience. Not to mention, it can take years before a patent is ultimately approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
After investing the time and money necessary to move through the patent approval process, it can be frustrating to find out that the patent protection an inventor or entrepreneur receives does not last forever. That’s why through every step of the patent process, it’s important for an inventor or entrepreneur to proceed with the end in mind.
When Does a Patent Expire?
Patents for inventions expire after twenty (20) years from their earliest priority date, while patent designs based on an existing object expire after fifteen (15) years from issuance. After this time a patent cannot be renewed or extended. There may be some exceptions for pharmaceuticals, as FDA approvals can slow down the process and there are laws that can help pharmaceutical companies recoup this lost time.
Will I have to stop selling my design or idea when my patent expires?
No, you will not have to stop selling your patented design or invention when your patent ultimately expires, but others will at this point be able to imitate and market your idea or design, too. This will obviously bring more competition in the marketplace and may drive down the price that you are able to charge for your product or invention. It should be noted, that a patent allows you to prevent others from manufacturing or selling a product that infringes on your invention, it does not give you the right to manufacture or sell the invention.
What about royalties?
If you license your patented idea to others, generally those companies will no longer have to pay you royalties when the patent expires. The patent serves as the expiration date, regardless of any type of agreement you have in place with a third-party.
How should I prepare for the day my patent expires?
This is a topic that should be explored closely with your patent attorney. There may be ways to improve upon your invention or product that can open the doors to receiving a second-generation patent. This is typically done in the pharmaceutical industry where a manufacturer will start developing improvements to a drug soon after the original patent is approved so that they are ready to hit the market with a new patent when the first one ultimately expires.
Again, an experienced patent attorney can help you prepare for the end of your patent and guide you toward opportunities to keep your business profitable after it happens. If you need assistance getting started, simply contact our United States patent attorneys at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.