When a patent is active the owner of the patent controls who can make and sell the invention. Patent holders also have the ability to seek civil remedy against those who infringe on their patent. Patent applications can become abandoned for various reasons. Once the USPTO determines that a patent should be granted on a patent application, an issue fee must be paid. Since several years pass by from the filing date up through the USPTO’s determination for patent approval, an inventor may determine that the invention in the patent application is not profitable and may choose not to pay the issue fee. If this occurs, the patent application becomes abandoned and the patent will never have been granted. Most patents expire 20 years from the date they are filed so any invention that is over 20 years old could possibly be abandoned. Ways to determine if a patent is abandoned or expired include:
  • Determine if the patent application was filed or claims priority to a patent filed 20 years before the date.
  • Determine if the issue maintenance fees have been paid.
If you would like to learn more about the uses of abandoned patents, contact the Patent Professor for a free consultation.

Common Reasons for Patent Abandonment

Office Action For most applications, patent prosecution ends with a patent issue or with abandonment. Patent applications can become abandoned for numerous reasons. Before a patent is granted there will commonly be several office actions between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and you and your attorney. If you or your attorney fail to respond to the office action by the specified deadline or if the applicant requests abandonment, then the application, is considered abandoned. Issue & Maintenance Fees If the patent office concludes that a patent should be granted on a patent application, then an issue fee has to be paid. Issue fees are expensive and the fees for large companies and small companies differ. After a three to the five-year period from the initial filing of the patent application, a company or inventor may determine that the invention disclosed in the application is no longer profitable or may just not want to pay the fee. If the issue fee is not paid, then the patent becomes abandoned without ever having been granted as a patent. If the issue fee is paid, the patent will be granted. Maintenance fees must be paid on patents three to three and a half, seven to seven and a half, and eleven to eleven in a half years from the date the patent application was filed or the priority date. It is quite common for individuals and companies not to pay maintenance fees on patents that are not profitable. When the maintenance fees are not paid, the patent becomes abandoned before its expiration date.

Steps To Finding An Abandoned Patent

If you’re interested in locating abandoned or expired patents, there are a few things that you can do including:
  • Conduct a patent search on a search engine such as Google Patents, which allows you to search for patents that are more than 20 years old. If you locate the patent you’re looking for, make sure to write down all pertinent information.
  • Also, you can search Public Pair located on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website. Public Pair allows you to conduct your search by a specific patent number or patent application publication number.
  • Public Pair has a patent status section where you are able to see if a certain patent is listed as patented. If the patent is listed active, then it is not available for free public use. If it is listed as abandoned, then it is free to use without violating any patent rights but you should always check with an attorney as it could be tied to another patent that precludes its use.

What Happens When A Patent Is Abandoned?

Abandoned and expired patents are commonly used by inventors to use previous research and make improvements and enhancements that result in new inventions. This creates innovation and can lead to many subsequent patents that stimulate the U.S. economy. Although a patent appears abandoned or expired, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced patent attorney so that you are certain that the owner did not file a similar patent that would preclude the use of an expired or abandoned patent.

How Can I Locate Abandoned Patent Drawings?

Abandoned patent drawings can be located on free search engines on the internet. Prior to beginning search for old patent drawings, there are three questions you should ask yourself
  1. Do I have the patent number?
  2. Was the filing date prior to 1971?
  3. When was the patented product made?
If you have the specific patent number, it’s pretty easy to locate what you’re looking for. Many websites offer this information freely. Older products will have the actual patent number inscribed somewhere on them. Another place the tends to have patent numbers is eBay. eBay sellers take pictures of their product’s patent number so that potential buyers will know that their item is authentic. This makes eBay a good free place to look search for old patents.

Patent Help

Only a patent professional can effectively conduct a patent search. Abandoned or expired patents are a great way for inventors to use previous research to build upon and make improvements that can result in future patents. If you have located an abandoned patent and wish to make it your own, contact the Patent Professor. The patent Professor will conduct a thorough patent search to confirm that patent that you wish to use isn’t active and is not tied to another patent that would preclude its use. Patenting an invention can be challenging, but an attorney familiar with the process can greatly improve the chances of your application gaining approval. Contact the Patent Professor to discuss the options available to you.

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