What is Patent Licensing?

Patent licensing is a legal agreement between the patent owner and another party, granting the latter permission to use, manufacture, or sell the patented invention. This agreement allows the licensee to utilize the technology or idea covered by the patent while the licensor retains the ownership rights. 

The licensee gains the advantage of accessing the patented technology without having to develop it independently, and the licensor receives licensing fees or royalties, generating revenue from the invention.

Types of Patent Licenses

When discussing patent licensing, it is crucial to have a grasp of the main types of licenses available: 

Exclusive License

An exclusive license grants the licensee (the party receiving the license) the sole right to use, produce, or sell the patented technology. The patent owner relinquishes their rights to license the invention to anyone else during the duration of the agreement. This type of license provides the licensee with a competitive advantage, as no one else can use the patented technology in the same way.

Non-Exclusive License

A non-exclusive license allows the patent owner to grant permission to multiple parties to use, produce, or sell the patented invention. This means that the patent owner can license the technology to several licensees simultaneously. Non-exclusive licenses are beneficial when the patent owner wants to reach a broader market and generate more revenue from the invention.

Sole license 

When you offer a sole license, you provide exclusive rights to the licensee within a specific territory or field of use, essentially preventing you from licensing the patent to anyone else in that particular area. Nevertheless, you retain the option to work with the patent independently.

Advantages of Patent Licensing

Patent licensing presents a valuable option for inventors who prefer not to handle the production or sale of their products or designs. By licensing your patent, you can monetize your invention by receiving royalties from the licensee’s sales. This approach allows you to profit from your creation without being directly involved in the operational aspects of bringing it to market.

Mitigated Risk 

Producing a product or design entails substantial expenses and inherent risks. However, through patent licensing, you can shift the burden of risk to another party, reducing your exposure to potential financial and operational uncertainties.

Global Reach 

For many inventors, scaling up production on a large scale might be impractical. Patent licensing opens the door to a broader market, facilitating the introduction of your invention to a wider audience. It can also pave the way for global distribution, making it a favored strategy among entrepreneurs and startups.

Time-Bound Agreements 

When licensing your intellectual property, you need not relinquish rights indefinitely. By incorporating a defined time period into the license, you retain control over your invention during the agreed-upon duration. Once the period concludes, you regain exclusive rights to your patent.

Resolving Patent Infringement 

Choosing to pursue legal action for patent infringement can be expensive and unpredictable in terms of the results. On the other hand, considering patent licensing through services like LegalZoom presents an alternative approach to handling infringement issues. By granting a competitor the right to use your intellectual property, you can leverage the situation to your advantage and create a mutually beneficial resolution.

For a licensing agreement to thrive, it should be advantageous for all parties involved. When a licensee obtains rights to a patent, they can:

  • Introduce novel products, services, and market prospects for their own benefit.
  • Minimize expenses associated with developing their technologies by acquiring existing ones through licensing.
  • Accelerate the time-to-market for a new product.
  • Gain a competitive edge, particularly if the license is exclusive.

Disadvantages of Patent Licensing

Identifying the ideal licensee can be a demanding and resolute endeavor. To maximize the prospects of success for your product, a thorough assessment of potential licensees and a well-structured licensing agreement are imperative. It is crucial to invest considerable thought and effort into this process to ensure a fruitful outcome.

Seeking Manufacturers 

As a patent holder, capitalizing on your intellectual property rights through patent licensing could be a strategic aspect of your business plan. However, the initial step involves locating a suitable licensee or manufacturer.

Challenges in Success

Securing an interested licensee can prove to be a daunting task, and negotiating a licensing agreement that ensures profitability is equally demanding. It’s essential to recognize that many inventors who aim to license their patents often encounter difficulties and may not achieve their desired outcomes.

Additional potential hazards and disadvantages associated with patent licensing encompass:

  • Surrendering partial or complete control over your invention to the licensee.
  • Depending on the licensee’s competence in effectively commercializing your patent.
  • Exposure to the risk of inadequate strategies or execution that could harm the success of your product.
  • The possibility of poor quality management negatively impacting your brand or product reputation.

How to License a Patent

To initiate the patent licensing process, begin by compiling a roster of manufacturers with established distribution networks. Attend trade shows, utilize online manufacturer databases, and explore relevant magazines to identify companies producing similar products to yours. You can also publish a notice in the official gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to announce the availability of your patent for licensing, for a nominal fee.

Next, it is essential to engage an attorney or intellectual property lawyer to negotiate and draft the licensing agreement. The agreement should outline details such as upfront payments, royalty amounts, and provisions for addressing potential infringement issues in the future. Depending on your needs, there are three ways to license the patent to a specific entity.

What to Include in Your Patent License Agreement

In your patent license agreement, it is essential to include the following key elements:

  1. Parties Involved: Clearly state the names and details of both the licensor (the patent owner) and the licensee (the party receiving the license).
  2. Scope of License: Define the scope of the license, specifying what rights the licensee will have concerning the patented invention. It can be exclusive or non-exclusive and may cover certain territories or fields of use.
  3. Duration of Agreement: Set the duration or term of the license, outlining the start and end dates, or any conditions that may trigger termination.
  4. Royalties or Payments: Clearly define the financial aspects of the agreement, including the licensing fees or royalties the licensee must pay to the licensor. Specify the payment schedule and any other relevant financial terms.
  5. Reporting and Auditing: Include provisions for the licensee to provide regular reports on sales and usage of the patented technology. Additionally, consider including an auditing clause to ensure accurate reporting.
  6. Intellectual Property Rights: Reiterate that the licensor retains ownership of the patent and intellectual property rights, and the licensee cannot claim ownership.
  7. Terms for Infringement: Specify the consequences if the licensee infringes on the patent rights or breaches any terms of the agreement.
  8. Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure: Add clauses to protect confidential information exchanged during the licensing process and ensure that the licensee does not disclose sensitive information to third parties.
  9. Warranties and Indemnities: Include any warranties provided by the licensor regarding the validity and scope of the patent. Also, outline any indemnities the licensee may receive in case of legal claims related to the patent.
  10. Governing Law and Dispute Resolution: State the governing law of the agreement and the preferred method of dispute resolution, such as arbitration or mediation.
  11. Assignment and Sub-Licensing: Specify whether the licensee can assign or sub-license the rights to other parties and under what conditions.
  12. Termination Clause: Clearly outline the circumstances that can lead to the termination of the license agreement and the procedures to be followed in such cases.
  13. Amendments: Include provisions for making amendments to the agreement and the process for obtaining mutual consent for any changes.


The following are answers to several patent-related frequently asked questions:

What are patent licensing agreements?

Patent licensing agreements are legal contracts that grant permission to a third party (licensee) to use, produce, or sell a patented invention owned by the patent holder (licensor). These agreements outline the terms and conditions under which the licensee can utilize the patented technology while allowing the licensor to retain ownership of the patent.

How long is the licensing period typically?

The licensing period in a patent license agreement varies and is usually determined by mutual agreement between the licensor and licensee. It can range from a few years to several decades, depending on the nature of the invention and the commercial goals of both parties.

What are the rights of patent owners?

Patent owners have the exclusive right to make, use, sell, or license their patented invention for a limited period, typically 20 years from the date of filing.

Josh Fechter
Josh is the founder of The Product Company.