We are often asked this question; hence I thought it would be useful if I set out a short note on this.
There is a possibility that you can use someone’s existing patent. Why? Because, the rights in a patents just like most other intellectual property rights can be sold (assigned) or licenced.
In fact in the UK if the owner of a patent advertises on the register of patents at the UK Patent Office that he will allow a licence to be granted on the use of his patent, the UK Patent Office will, in return, half the patent owners’ renewal fees!
Owners of any Intellectual property rights are always open to ideas, suggestions, and proposals on ways to exploit their Intellectual property. As mentioned above licensing and assignments are two options. Licensing can often open up a revenue stream for the patent owner and the patent owner may see his patent being put to use, perhaps on a scale that he could not use or achieve himself. Hence, the benefits of him licensing it.
How much to pay for the use of the patent, will your use be limited to a given market/ territory, will you have sole use, exclusive use or non- exclusive use, how long will the right last for, what will happen to any improvements that you might make to the patent, what will happen if the patent is challenged or if it is infringed, etc.?. All these questions need to be addressed before you can make a decision on whether or not you want to obtain a licence to use someone’s patent.