Friday, July 29, 2011

Can A Ship Builder Use Patented U.S. Technology?

Dear Rich: I am the builder of a ship. Can I sell the ship with a patented technology to someone else although I am not the owner of the patent? We're assuming you're asking about U.S. patents (and that's all we can speak about, anyway), so here goes: A U.S. patent owner can bring a patent infringement action (lawsuit) against you if you make, use, or sell the ship (incorporating the invention) in the U.S. without permission. Your email indicates you are from Malaysia. A U.S. patent owner cannot stop the manufacture, use, or sale of the technology or device (used in the ship) in Malaysia unless the owner has patented the invention in Malaysia. However it would be an infringement of a U.S. patent to import the ship into the United States, or for you to create all of the parts of the patented invention in the United States and send those parts to Malaysia with instructions for assembly. (Here is some basic information on foreign patent treaty rules.)
What if the boat docks in the U.S.? What if the boat isn't sold or imported into the U.S. but docks occasionally at a U.S. port? Patent law has an exception (the temporary presence exception) that permits ship and aircraft owners (with otherwise infringing technology) to dock here without being sued provided: (1) the ship or aircraft enters the U.S. on a temporary or accidental basis, and (2) the patented technology or device is used exclusively for the needs of the ship or aircraft.