A patent is a property right granted by the US government. The government
is authorized to grant patents by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution
which reads, "Congress shall have the power . . . to promote the
progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to
authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings
and discoveries." The right that Congress grants is the right "to
exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling"
the invention in the United States.
An inventor does not need a patent to make, use, or sell the invention
himself but he or she does need to obtain a patent in order to prevent
others from doing so. Even after a patent is obtained, the owner of the
patent does not have the right to use, make, or sell an invention if doing
so would violate the law.
The patent right is granted for a limited time in exchange for a full
disclosure of the invention. The disclosure must be sufficiently detailed
to allow a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention.
A patent granted by the US government only protects the invention within
the United States and its territories and possessions. Foreign patents
can also be obtained to protect the invention in other countries.
Patent infringement is when a person or an entity makes, uses, offers
to sell, or sells a patented in the United States without the authority
of the patent owner.
- Literal infringement
- Infringement under something called the doctrine of equivalents
- Inducement of infringement
- Contributory infringement.
If the patent holder’s suit is successful, the court will either
force the infringer to stop using the patent, or work out an agreement
whereby the infringer pays royalties to the patent holder. However, patent
suits are often tricky, because the alleged infringer might succeed in
proving the PTO mistakenly granted the patent in the first place.