Patents have served as valuable tools for entrepreneurs looking to protect their creations for some time now. They can be used to protect ideas that are manifested in a tangible product or process. Patents have been an integral part of America’s innovation system since 1790 and a valuable tool used by many entrepreneurs and businesses. Those who hold patents or would like to may wonder: do patents expire?

Do Patents Expire?

Patents in the United States do have an expiration date which depends on the type of patent. Utility patents and plant patents expire 20 years after being issued while design patents expire after 15 years. Once a patent expires, others are able to freely use what was originally patented. This allows for innovation from the original creation and lets inventors build on the product.

Keeping track of patents and their expiration dates can be difficult, but there are tools that can help you. The USPTO has a patent term calculator that allows you to estimate the expiration dates of whatever patents you may hold.


What Happens After Expiration?

Companies that hold patents may suffer following expiration. Once a patent expires, others are free to build on the product and sell it themselves. This can lead to a huge loss in revenue for the company that held the original patent due to the new competition.

Due to the loss in revenue an expired patent can cause, companies should plan ahead. One thing that companies may immediately lose is royalty payments that resulted from the patented product. Another thing you will have to account for shortly after expiration is increased effort in marketing the product since there will be a new wave of competition who will all be competing to sell the same invention. Other things a company may want to consider is reducing the cost or production of the product as its patent expires.


Further Reading

Can You Apply for a Patent Without Legal Assistance?

Provisional Patent: How and Why to File an Application – Michelson IP

How to Strengthen Your Patent – Michelson IP



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