What is a Patent

A patent grants the right to exclude others from making, selling and using an invention.  It should be understood that a patent does not grant the right to make, sell and use an invention but instead grants a right to exclude others from doing the same.  This is important to understand because a patent applicant may be granted a patent for an invention but will not be able to practice (i.e., make, sell or use) the invention if the invention infringes an earlier patent that was granted to another.

For example, Alpha Corporation invents a widget.  This is a “pioneer” invention (i.e., the first of its kind).  Alpha Corporation is able to obtain broad patent protection for the widget.  Beta Corporation subsequently invents an improved widget, for which Beta also obtains a patent.  Alpha Corporation has the right to exclude others, including Beta Corporation, from making, selling and using the widget, and any improvements in the widget.  So, Beta Corporation cannot practice (i.e., make, sell or use) its patented invention without infringing Alpha Corporation’s patent.

As an interesting twist, Beta Corporation has the right to exclude others, including Alpha Corporation from making, selling and using the improved widget.

However, if Alpha Corporation is interested in making, selling or using the improved widget and Beta Corporation is interest in making, selling or using the improved widget, the two corporations may enter into a cross license agreement, wherein each corporation licenses its patent rights to the other corporation. 

If you have a question about patents, askme at thedford@askmeip.com.