Patent rights are one of the most valuable forms of intellectual property because a patent is not just a single right - a patent actually consists of a bundle of rights. The bundle of rights can be broken down or segmented into individual rights or smaller groups of rights, which can be licensed, assigned, sold, or otherwise exploited for financial gains. Savvy patent holders often work closely with experienced patent lawyers to figure out ways to commercialize their patent rights and other intellectual property.
What Rights Does A Patent Confer on the Patent Holder?
A patent confers the right to a monopoly on the patented invention for a set amount of time, i.e., twenty years. Once the patent term expires, anyone can have access to the patented product because the patented invention transitions to the public domain. For the duration of the patent’s term, however, the patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing the patented invention.
At the core of patent rights, there is the right to exclude others. However, each one of these rights - i.e., the right to make, the right to use, the right of offering to sell, the right to sell and the right to import - can each individually be licensed to others by the patent holder.
Assignment vs. Licensing
The two main ways that patent rights are transferred from one person or entity to another is through either an assignment or a license. An assignment is generally a complete transfer of all of the rights associated with the patent, i.e., a transfer of ownership of the patent. A license on the other hand, is a temporary grant of a specific right from the patent owner to a licensee in exchange for consideration, which usually takes the form or a licensing fee.
Assignments are useful in situations where the patent owner wants to transfer complete ownership of the patent to someone else. For instance, there are many employment agreements where employees are required to assign any and all intellectual property rights to their employer. Another example of when assignment of patent rights is useful would be during the sale of a patent.
Licensing, rather than assignment, is often used by patent owners because the patent owner gets to remain the patent owner while the licensee pays money in exchange for authorization to exercise certain patent rights. Licenses usually are limited to a single or a small group of rights concerning the patent, and licenses are only for a set amount of time and must be renewed. Licenses are often also limited in geographical area, meaning that the patent owner can license the same rights to multiple licensees in different geographical areas. Licenses can be made to be exclusive, or nonexclusive.
There are many ways that patent owners can monetize their patent rights. Carving up and licensing the bundle of rights associated with a patent is just one possible way, while assignment or sale of a patent to someone else is another way. An experienced patent lawyer will be able to help you explore ways to monetize your intellectual property rights.
If you or your business needs expert guidnace on how to best obtain a patent, contact our attorneys today.