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Patents And Freedom To Operate

Patents And Freedom To Operate

After an invention is patented, the inventor has exclusive rights over the invention. Any infringement thereby is actionable and you have the right to stop others from using or selling your invention. However, getting a patent is not enough to sell your product in the market. Sometimes, you need to have the Freedom to Operate (FTO) to make, use and sell the product.

FTO’s are especially important in industries like:

  • Biotechnology
  • Biopharmaceuticals 
  • Manufacturing industries
  • Chemical products 

What is FTO?

So let us understand the concept of FTO with the help of the automobile industry. Many cars these days come with smart technology, these technologies are often patented, however, they alone are not responsible for the final product that is the car. Many patented parts and machinery are used in the making of a car, software technology is one of them. Thus, the parties involved in such businesses must consider FTO. 

This will ensure that no party infringes upon the patent of the other. Thus when two stakeholders work towards a final product, they should work together and get the Freedom to Operate.

Things to keep in mind

One may begin FTO analysis by searching the relevant patent literature for issued and pending patents. This task may not be as simple and may require the help of a specialized IP firm that offers such services. 

While conducting the FTO search and analysis, it is important to know the limitations of patents and how you can utilize these limitations to best suit your case. Some things to keep in mind are:

  • Patent protection varies from place to place. A patent may be applicable in the US but at the same time it may not apply to India and as a result, no permission will be required from the patent holder.
  • Patents last for a period of 20 years after which they are available in the public domain and can be freely used by others.
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