Legality of modifying a product produced by someone else

I have an idea for a product but I'm uncertain if it will infringe on copy right or licensing rights. <p>Is it illegal to take a product that is produced by a company, make betterments or other changes to it, then sell it to an industry different from it's previous?&nbsp; For instance, I buy a lot of Bic pens, and glue them together to make a toy car, and stick wheels on it, then sell this product.&nbsp; Is this illegal?</p> <p>Are there ways to protect my idea since it involves the use of other company's products.</p> <p>Best Regards,</p> <p>David</p>


Asked over 7 years ago in California
Categories: Business Law  Patents, Trademarks, Copyright

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Reply by Admin Administrator


My understanding is that you have to get a license to use a product that has a patent to use it in another product you are producing.  You should speak to an intellectual property lawyer about this.  Please get in touch with either of the two intellectual property lawyers we have on the site: http://legal.advicescene.com/us/lawyers?area=Intellectual+Property&state=CA&textQuery=&commit=Search

Posted over 7 years ago

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice to you. Legal advice pertaining to your particular situation can only be provided by a lawyer who has met with you to obtain all pertinent background information necessary to give you a formal legal opinion. For formal legal advice, hire a lawyer (many give a free first consultation). Search the Lawyer Directory.


James R Coleman

Answer by James R Coleman

VerifiedWorldwide lawyer


Jim Coleman - Patent Attorney
Under the law, you can get a patent on an improvement to an existing invention.  As explained above, if the invention you are improving on has a patent still in existence, you will need to get a license to produce the product but not to get the patent. 
You cannot get a patent for just an idea,  You must work out the details so that "a person of ordinary skill in the art can make or use the invention."  You do not have to build a prototype, but every inventor will tell you how valuable a prototype is for working out the bugs. 
Most important, keep your invention secret from everyone until you disclose the invention to a patent attorney or agent.  (Only you or a patent attorney or agent can apply for a patent.  Trying to do it yourself is not wise.  There are hundreds of little traps for the novice and you could lose the patent if you slip up with even one.)  Public disclosure "starts the clock" on some absolute time limits to file the application.
You definitely must have a skilled researcher search for prior art. 
As to your specific question: interesting example.  Many Bic pens have been around for longer than the maximum 21 year life of a patent.  Thus they are in the public domain.  In addition, the patent, if there ever was one, was likely in the field of writing implements or inks or something like that.  In the toy car, the pens are not used as pens but as commodity components.  Say you pull out the ink and ball part and make the toy car from the tubes. While there is no way to tell without a prior art search, it is highly unlikely your toy car would infringe on Bic's patents for pens.  (See how tricky it can be?)
The bad news is that a patent application is not cheap. Prices vary but those who will quote bottom end prices usually cut corners and that is not good for you.  A shortcut (bargain basement) application could cost you the rights to the invention.  So you will have wasted far more than you tried to save.
Expect to pay around $2,000. for a proper Provisional Application with a competent search plus drawings.  Expect to pay at least $4,000. for the Non-Provisional (Final) Application.  Filing fees alone for the Final are now $530. 
Good luck.  Keep thinking.  Keep inventing.

Posted over 7 years ago

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice to you. Legal advice pertaining to your particular situation can only be provided by a lawyer who has met with you to obtain all pertinent background information necessary to give you a formal legal opinion. For formal legal advice, hire a lawyer (many give a free first consultation). Contact James R Coleman, or search the Lawyer Directory.

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