Q: If I design a product that uses another person's patented component within my design, what permissions do I need?

I am creating a product (a stand for giant marquee letters) for my company that uses someone else's patented magnet as a component. What type of copyright/patent permissions, if any, do I need from the magnet company?

2 Lawyer Answers
Michael Ray Smith

A: Note that I am not licensed in Illinois, and that none of the answers to questions in this forum should be considered legal advice.

You may need a license from the company that owns the patent and any other intellectual property rights, but maybe not if you simply buy the other company's magnets and use them in making your own product (because of something called the doctrine of exhaustion of rights). Even if you can do it that way without a license, you might find that some sort of collaboration with that company could be more profitable.

In any event, do not try to make those decisions by yourself. Consult an Illinois attorney who practices in the area of intellectual property licensing to give you definitive advice and to assist you in drafting and negotiating a any agreement you may need.

T. J. Jesky
T. J. Jesky
  • Chicago, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: I agree with Attorney Michael Ray Smith. First, contact the company/person who owns the patent. You can find the owner at www.uspto.gov.

Once you contact the owner, enter into a dialogue that you are interested in his patent. You can make an

offer to buy it, or you can enter into a licensing agreement (most common); or you can ask him to sign an agreement with the owner to use the patent for a small fee or no fee at all, or you can sign an agreement that the patent owner would receive a small royalty on the sale of your product that contains his patented idea or perhaps you can find another arrangement. Each case is different.

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