I Found My Idea Already Patented – Can I Still Use it Now?


When an idea is discovered, a lot of dreams and hopes of building innovative products and successful businesses are also born along with. As an inventor, you think you achieved something big, and your idea will help solve many problems in a specific area. But, what if you find that the idea is already patented by someone else? It feels like you are hit by a brick wall, and all your money and efforts  for R&D go in vain. What to do now?

First of all, don’t give up! You still have many options to monetize your idea. Yes, this is true! Read this blog, and you will know that.

Do as much research on your idea as you can, and search for all the existing patents, and check how many of them are active now.  This is because most of the inventors and large corporations get patents, but don’t know the right commercialization strategy or have tried and failed. As a result, they end up abandoning their patents. There is a good example of this below:

Catherine Hettinger invented a small toy for her daughter 2 decades ago, and obtained a patent for it. She took her patent to many toy manufacturers, but couldn’t find a commercialization partner. As a result, she abandoned her patent. Later, the idea was picked up by many Chinese companies; they developed its modern versions, and earned a lot of money. The name of the product is “Fidget Spinner”, which become popular among children and even adults in 2017.


What if your idea has active patents? You still don’t have to worry. Check the protection area of the patents, and there can be two scenarios:

Idea has active patents in a foreign country/region

A patent is a territorial right applicable only in the country/region in which it is granted. If you find existing patents of your idea in Canada, and you want to practice its technologies in the United States, you are free to do so. But, when the patent holders expand the IP protection areas to the United States, you must obtain license for the patent family you are using.

Idea has active patents in your country/region

If you discover active patents for your idea exist in your country/region, don’t throw up your hands! You still have chances to utilize your idea. Maybe it has some advanced features, which are absent in the patented ones. Maybe the patents are not brought in the market yet or the inventors have tried and failed. Thus, you can have the opportunity to turn those unsuccessful patents to successful products using an exclusive IP strategy.

Do a comprehensive study on all the elements of your idea, and different segments and market verticals of the claims of the patents. If you get some unique features, do market research, develop them further, and go for IP filing.

Let’s take another scenario. What if the patents are successful, and inventors are selling products in the markets? That still doesn’t stop you. Order the products, do a detailed study on technologies behind them, and discover what extra features you can add to them. After that, prepare models of the modified versions of the existing products, and set up meetings with the inventors, and you can have the opportunity to become part of successful businesses.

Hope you get the answer for what to do when patents for your idea already exist in the market. If you have any question related to intellectual property search, licensing, and patent infringement, please let us know, and we will be happy to help you.

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