Why? What? When? How? These are some of the most used words in John’s dictionary. He’s pretty curious about the workings behind what happens in his life, and many of those have to do with the inventions and the workings of intellectual property in the world around him.
John’s Whatsapp friends group from his Engineering college days had a bit of an uproar recently. A friend of his, who had opened a startup partially powered by an innovative invention, recently learned that his patent was not protected anymore. Upset, he turned to his friends for help, and John wasted no time asking IP Geek about what was going on.
Hey IP geek. Recently a friend of mine got into some trouble. His company owns an electronic patent that was granted two years ago, and there are still plenty of years left in the patent term. But yesterday he mentioned the patent had lapsed because he didn’t pay the fees. How is this possible?
Uh oh. This is a problem a lot of people may not be aware of unless they have a patent attorney to advise them on it.
You do get patent rights granted to you for a period of 20 years from the filing date of an application, but you don’t keep those rights unless you pay a yearly renewal fee.
Wow You really lose your patent protection if you don’t pay these fees annually? That means all that work you did to prosecute the patent would be wasted- I’m sure nobody would willingly let a patent lapse.
Well, every year is an additional year where the disclosed technology cannot be used by other people, so the fees are higher for later years. Sometimes, if the technology is not actually being used by the patent owner, it may be more practical to just let it lapse.
I don’t think my friend’s case is like that though. Is there anything he can do to fix this?
Yes, to a point. If less than six months has passed since the patent lapsed, you can just file the renewal fee with a six month extension of the deadline. If it’s been more than 6 months, you have 18 months (from the date of the patent lapsing) to file an application for patent restoration.
Now keep in mind that Patent restoration is not automatic – the Patent Office does weigh in the reasons for the lapse and decide if your patent should be restored or not. So it is for the best if your patent never gets lapsed in the first place.
I don’t think it’s been that long since this happened, so that does sound very helpful. I’d better let him know about all that as soon as possible, then.
Thanks, IP Geek- I’m sure he’ll know not to make these mistakes next time.
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