Patent Infringement Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Patent Infringement, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Patent Infringement?

It refers to the use of a knowhow, manufacture of a product or use of the matter which has been incorporated in a patent issued by the government, by someone else than the actual inventor to whom patent was granted. The inventor can file a lawsuit against such infringement and can claim the benefits if any derived from the infringed use of the patent. They can also claim damages caused by such infringement.

History and Meaning of Patent Infringement

Patent infringement is a legal term which refers to the violation of the exclusive rights granted to the owner of a patent. A patent is a form of intellectual property right that provides protection for an invention or discovery for a limited period of time. Patent owners have the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling their patented invention, without their permission. Patent infringement occurs when someone violates these rights by making, using, selling, or importing a product that incorporates the patented invention.

The concept of patent infringement dates back to the early days of patent law, when it was recognized that a patent owner should have the exclusive right to use and benefit from their invention. The first patent statutes in the United States, enacted in the late 18th century, provided for the grant of exclusive rights to inventors for a term of 14 years. Since then, the scope of patent infringement has evolved with changes in the law and technological advancements.

Examples of Patent Infringement

  1. Company A has developed a new software program that they believe is unique and innovative. They apply for and are granted a patent for their invention. Company B, a direct competitor, releases a software program that is remarkably similar in functionality and design to Company A's program. This could be seen as patent infringement.

  2. A pharmaceutical company secures a patent for a new drug that represents a significant medical advancement. Another company produces a generic version of the drug before the patent's expiration date, which could be considered patent infringement.

  3. An individual invents a new type of tool that becomes highly popular among a certain group of professionals. A different company begins producing a tool that is almost identical in design and function to the original invention without the inventor's permission. This could be seen as patent infringement.

Legal Terms Similar to Patent Infringement

  1. Trademark Infringement - This occurs when someone uses a trademark that is confusingly similar to a registered trademark, causing consumer confusion.

  2. Copyright Infringement - This occurs when someone copies, distributes or performs a creative work, such as a song, film or book, without the permission of the copyright owner.

  3. Trade Secret Misappropriation - This is the theft or unauthorized use of a trade secret, which is classified as any confidential business or technical information that provides a competitive economic advantage.