A patent is an intellectual property tool made to help the owner protect their invention from being made, used, or sold by others. Depending on the invention it is protecting, patents can be very valuable because of the exclusive financial benefit the invention provides to the owner. Patent holders who find themselves in control of a sought-after patent may wonder: can you sell a patent?

Can You Sell a Patent?

The short answer is yes. If you hold a patent for an idea others find valuable, you can sell the patent rights to somebody else. However, ideally you would opt not to sell a patent, rather you would license the patent or IP to another party for commercial use. Selling or licensing a patent can be beneficial to inventors looking to move their focus to a new project or invention. There are a number of other options for commercializing, or making money off of, your patent. These include selling a patent to an investor or using a broker to sell it.

Although the sale of a patent can be lucrative for the original inventor, the opportunity cost of what the patented invention could become should be taken into account. Patents can become extremely valuable and can make companies tons of money, so they should not be sold at a discount.

Why Would You Sell a Patent?

There can be many reasons an inventor may wish to license or sell a patent. One major reason is that inventors are good at inventing, but do not want to take the next step of developing a business out of their invention. The option of licensing or selling a patent is good for people like this, as they can still profit from their inventiveness but do not have to take the risk of putting up capital to create a full scale business out of the IP.

What Are the Downsides?

The main downside is you may be limiting the amount of money you can make. When patented inventions are turned into businesses, they have the potential to make the patent owner far more than if they had sold the patent. When you consider famous patented inventions such as the iPhone, which has made Apple billions of dollars, it’s easy to understand why it’d be hard to give away your invention.

This is why while it may be possible to sell a patent, if you are nervous about not getting enough money for it, the much better option is licensing. A license allows you to maintain the rights as an IP owner but also allows another entity to use the patented invention and pay you a royalty for doing so.

Further Reading 

IP 101: The Fundamentals of IP Licensing

Trademark Licensing

FORBES: How Billionaire Inventor Dr. Gary Michelson Negotiates Licensing Deals

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article shall be construed as legal advice.


The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.