How to Transfer a Patent

Rich Goldstein

Founder & Principal Patent Attorney
Two people shaking hands

Obtaining a patent can be challenging enough. However, transferring legal complexities and ownership intricacies can make patent transfers even more difficult. Having facilitated numerous successful transfers, I understand the nuances involved in the transfer process.

Today, I will guide you on how to transfer a patent and help you smoothly transition ownership.

How to Transfer a Patent

When a patent application is drafted and submitted, at least one inventor must always be identified. Whoever the inventor is or inventors are, they take ownership of that patent. The patent owner has the right to prohibit anyone else from doing the following concerning the invention:

  • Manufacturing
  • Selling
  • Using
  • Importing
Three people sitting down while discussing a deal

The patent owner can typically claim damages if an individual or company infringes these patent rules.

If patent ownership is to be transferred to another entity or company, the owner (inventor) must sign a USPTO patent assignment. A patent assignment is the smoothest, most reliable method of transferring a patent. This is an agreement where the assignor transfers a percentage or all of their patent rights to another entity, even if the patent application is still pending.

Transferring a Patent Application and Granted Patent

According to the USPTO, “During examination of a pending patent application or after the patent is granted, the owner of the patent may change.” Therefore, if a patent application has been submitted and has not yet been approved, the owner can decide to transfer ownership to another party.

The initial owner of the patent may also “retain ownership [and] change its name.” To record the patent assignment or name change, the original owner must do so by completing a Recordation Cover Sheet via the USPTO’s Assignment Recordation Branch. They must also submit a copy of the assignment, legal documentation (consult with a patent attorney for further help), and proof of the name change, if necessary.

Patent Assignment Explained

To transfer ownership of a patent application, a document known as a patent assignment must be completed. These documents typically identify those transferring their patent rights to another entity and the one receiving the patent rights. Even after the initial assignment, another can be recorded to transfer a patent to another assignee.

The entity or individual transferring the rights must sign a patent assignment. The recipient is not usually required to sign the document; however, certain countries require both assignor and assignee signatures. This is important to know if you need to transfer a patent internationally.

Once completed, the assignment is recorded with the USPTO. I recommend inventors only sign the document once the patent application has been submitted. This gives a better chance of speeding up the process of transferal by the USPTO.

Executing a Patent Assignment

Every patent assignment should be completed in writing. Currently, it is not possible to enforce an assignment through oral agreements. When filling in the assignment, the assigned patent must be identified (include the title, inventors, filing date, and application number).

A man doing a presentation in front of a white board

In addition, ensure all parties are included in the form, along with their names and addresses. The assignor should sign the assignment [s] with witnesses to prove the signatures are genuine.

When to File a Patent Assignment

In most circumstances, patent assignments should be filed as soon as possible after the invention was created or acquired. This can help establish clear ownership and avoid potential complications.

  • Early inventor signatures are advisable: Obtaining inventor signatures early is highly recommended. This is because it can be challenging to locate them at a later date, especially ex-employees.
  • Concurrent assignment filing: Preferably, the executed assignment should be filed alongside the patent application. If this is unavailable, it should be submitted within three months as per 35 USC 261.
  • Strategic assignment recording: The recording of completed assignments is sometimes delayed. Recording the assignment before publication can help display the assignee’s name in the application. This means those interested can search for the application more efficiently.

Effective Search Methods for Patent Assignments

If you wish to search for patent assignments, you can do so via the USPTO website. You must choose “Patent Assignment” and input the relevant information, such as patent numbers or assignee names. You can then locate records of transferred patent ownership.

Transfer (Assignment) of Patent and License Differences

It is easy to confuse the two when dealing with royalties patent licenses and assignment agreements. Let’s clear up what each means:

  • A patent assignment involves transferring ownership rights from the original owner to an assignee. One party (the assignor) permanently transfers their rights to another party (the assignee). Therefore, the assignee becomes the new owner of the patent.
  • A license agreement grants permission to a third party (the licensee) to use the patent while the original owner (the licensor) retains ownership. The licensee tends to receive certain rights, which can be broad or restricted and pays royalties or fees to the licensor for using the patented technology.

Why Transfer a Patent?

There could be various reasons to transfer a patent. Some of the most common include:

Two people shaking hands
  • Strategic alignment with another entity’s goals – Many inventors transfer or assign their patents to a company in order to align their business entity with complementary objectives. In turn, this can maximize the product’s potential impact.
  • Monetization through selling or licensing – The patent transfer can allow the original owner to generate revenue by selling it outright or licensing its use to others for an agreed fee.
  • Focus on core business areas – It is possible to shift the attention and resources towards the owner’s primary business activities, improving overall efficiency.
  • Risk mitigation by offloading maintenance costs – Transferring a patent may relieve the owner of various financial and administrative burdens associated with maintaining and protecting the patent.
  • Streamlined portfolio management – By consolidating or optimizing a patent portfolio, assignors can make managing and exploiting valuable intellectual property assets easier via transfers.

The sale of patent results in a one-off payment, and all rights are given up (in most cases). It is essential to consult with a patent attorney to ensure a fair fee and that all legal requirements are followed.

Additional Questions

How Much Does It Cost to Transfer a Patent?

The cost to transfer a patent in the United States is currently estimated at $235, though this is subject to change. This entails the change of ownership of a single patent. Fees can vary depending on individual factors and patent specifics.

Can One Transfer or Sell the Rights in a Patent?

One can transfer or sell the rights in a patent to another owner. As discussed, this is achieved through patent assignments or licensing agreements. This transfer of ownership grants the new owner permission to use the patent.

Is a Patent a Transferable Property?

A patent is a transferable property. This is because patents can be bought, sold, licensed, or assigned, thus allowing the owner to transfer their rights to another entity through legal processes.

Conclusion

Transferring a patent typically involves a structured legal patent process with strict patent laws that require a qualified patent attorney or expert. Assignors can effectively change ownership or grant usage rights to another party through assignments, licenses, or agreements.

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