True or False – Questions About Intellectual Property

Now Or Later Signpost Showing Delay Deadlines And UrgencyT or F? Improvements to old technologies may be patented. 

True. You actually can get a patent on an improvement to an old technology as long as the improvement is something new and it’s not just an obvious improvement—that’s the key. In fact, most technologies are just improvements to things that have come before.

T or F? A patent grants the inventor the right to make, use, sell, and import his or her invention. In other words, does a patent grant the inventor the right to practice the invention—meaning, the right to make, use, sell, and import the invention.

False. This is actually the most misunderstood aspect of patent law. It’s very counter-intuitive but having the patent doesn’t necessarily mean that you are free to go around and practice your invention.

T or F? A patent grants the inventor the right to make, use, sell, and import his or her invention. In other words, does a patent grant the inventor the right to practice the invention—meaning, the right to make, use, sell, and import the invention.

False. This is actually the most misunderstood aspect of patent law. It’s very counter-intuitive but having the patent doesn’t necessarily mean that you are free to go around and practice your invention. You must still do your homework.

T or F? A patent application has been updated after it has been filed to incorporate new features.

False. You cannot update the patent application once it’s filed. It’s pretty much locked in once it is filed. You can modify the claims but you can’t add new ideas, figures, or details. That’s why it’s important to continually file additional patent applications to keep the R&D activity calibrated to the patent activity.

T or F? The person who pays for the inventing owns the patents. 

False. Under U.S. law, the rights in the patent do not vest in the person who pays for the patent—instead the rights vest in the inventor. That’s why it’s critical to have some sort of contractual agreement with the company you hire to do inventing work for you. It could be an employment agreement or it could be a confidentiality agreement that has some sort of assignment provisions. But it’s very important that you are protecting yourself by making sure that the rights in the patent get assigned to you if you are the one paying.

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