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Can you fight a utility patent on a technology that has been around for years?

jd9600's Avatar

I work for a manufacturing company and we thought we came up with a great idea.  Turns out another manufacturing company patented the idea in 2010.  This other company has been around for over 100 years.  I was looking through one of their brochures from the 1960's and they had that exact technology shown in the brochure being used in the exact same way as their 2010 patent states.  Searching other manufacturers products from the 1960's shows this idea was widely used across the industry (found 4 other manufacturing companies who used this exact technology). Is there any statue of limitations on a technology like this?  How can they patent something that was widely used 50 years ago?  Thanks! 

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magurn's Avatar

Hi Jeff!

The Edison Nation team cannot provide legal/patent guidance, we would strongly advise consulting with a patent attorney on this matter.

We wish you the best of luck!

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en1501's Avatar

If the facts are as you stated and they didn't improve the 1960's technology in some sort of non-obvious way for their 2010 patent, that 2010 patent will be very weak.  They may be using it to bluff, and no more.  KEEP THAT OLD BROCHURE IN A SAFE PLACE!!!  Find more "prior art" too; more is better; and keep it ready.  It sounds like their 2010 patent is toast.  The fact that the prior art you found was a brochure suggests the info was public, not internal, which is good for you.   

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jd9600's Avatar

Thanks,  I can actually drive around and find some of their old equipment still being used.  Actually I guess the "new idea" we came up with was kind of inspired by seeing some of the old equipment.  It is just in the 1970's through 2010 all companies went away from this technology to a different style.  Turns out the old technology from the 60's still works well today...

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en1501's Avatar

I'd get some photos/vids of the old equipment before it goes to the scrap yard.  Their 2010 patent may have been allowed in error but it still exists, so you might have a hassle someday.  If you have a pile of prior art to show them, you'll end up buying a postage stamp, not a lawyer.  

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gizmo's Avatar

Jeff I would get into the USPTO Public Pair File Wrapper and dissect all the correspondence that went  on between Examiner,Attorney or Inventor. There file wrapper will help you decide what your options may be. 

Search the info below to educate yourself

"Challenging Your Competitors’ Patent Applications: The New Rules Of Engagement Under The America Invents Act"

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