Q: When a patent expires after 20 years and is assigned to another person or institution is it still in the public domain?
A patent for a technology I am looking at expired in August after 20 years and it says it was assigned to Bank of America. Does this mean Bank of America now owns the intellectual property or is the IP now open to the public? Would a licensing agreement with Bank of America be required to use this technology?
A: Dear Ian,
The assignment of a patent to an assignee does not affect the term of a patent. In other words, if the patent is indeed expired, it is now in the public domain. You should make sure that the patent has expired.
Liliana Di Nola-Baron, J.D., Ph.D.
Attorney at Law
Kathryn Perales agrees with this answer
A: After a patent is expired, anything that is claimed or even disclosed in the patent, passes onto the public. Anyone is able to use or make the invention without worrying about getting sued by the patent holder.
Unfortunately, some companies ask for a license payments beyond the expiration of the patent (as in "we'll let you license it now while the patent is valid, but you'll still have to pay us for 10 more years after the expiration of the patent"). Under the US law, this would be illegal restriction of free trade. You won't have to license technology in expired patent.
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