Patents protect technology and give the holder a monopoly on the use and sale of the technology. However, patents are in no way requisite to developing or selling a product. If you use someone else’s patented technology in your product, you will need the patent holder’s permission before you sell.
If you developed a product on your own using your own technology, you do not need to have a patent to sell the product. However, you may want to conduct a patent search before you market the product to make sure that you are not inadvertently violating someone else’s patent rights. The Patent Office has a free online database of all patents currently in force.
Do You Need a Patent?
You may consider patenting your product or invention. A patent gives the holder an exclusive right to use, copy, distribute and sell an invention, which means that nobody can copy you or sell your product without your permission. However, getting a patent usually costs more than $10,000 and takes two years. Patent lawyer Eric Heels recommends that start-ups and entrepreneurs spend that $10,000 on marketing or part-time staff instead.
You cannot sell someone else’s patented product without their permission — you could offer to buy the patent from them, but that takes tens of thousands of dollars and a good lawyer. Patented technology and products should have any relevant patent numbers printed clearly on the product or its packaging.
If you want to sell someone’s patented product, you need their permission. Permission usually comes in the form of a legal document called a license, which specifies exactly how you can use the technology (in this case, for commercial sales only), where and for what period of time, and may include more specifics. Patent holders usually charge for licenses, but the amounts vary widely, depending on the holder, the licensee, the breadth of the license, the industry and the invention.