What does a patent not provide?

Minneapolis patent attorney Tim Grathwol explains what a patent does not cover.

Contact Tim Grathwol

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (612) 359-3275


What does a patent not provide? So, we talked about what a patent is before. It’s a right to exclude others from practicing the invention. What it is not is a right to practice your own invention. So, the easiest example of that is if you come up with an invention that’s illegal; let’s say tomorrow the US government outlaws firearms, and you come up with a patentable gun. You can get a patent on that, but that doesn’t mean you can make the gun, okay?

So, the ability to commercialize a product and sell it in the marketplace really has – your ability, your right to, has nothing to do with getting a patent to that product. You do not need a patent to practice an invention, or to carry out an invention. There may be other laws that come into play with respect to that. But really, a patent is for the purpose of you excluding others from being able to copy what you’re doing.

The other thing that a patent is not – it does not grant you the unfettered right to practice your invention. In other words, it doesn’t supersede other patents that may be out there. So, if you get a patent on a gas turbine engine – and let’s say it’s about a particular aspect of that, like the turbine blades – and someone else has a previous patent – another competitor has a previous patent to a gas turbine engine, the same basic type, but their claims and their patent is broader than yours; it’s a more general and sort of foundational pattern – that, the fact that you got a patent on a similar type of engine, or basically the same engine for a particular characteristic, doesn’t allow you to now not worry about that competitive patent. That’s a completely separate issue and analysis. You still have to be aware of competitive patents, and essentially analyze them to see if you have freedom to operate – that’s what we call it – or clearance over those competitive patents.