What is the difference between a disclaimed patent term and an extended patent term?

What Is The Difference?

In the world of intellectual property, patents play a vital role in protecting inventions and innovations. Once granted, a patent provides the inventor with exclusive rights to their creation for a specified period. However, within the realm of patent terms, there are two distinct concepts that patent holders should be aware of: disclaimed patent terms and extended patent terms.

Understanding Patent Terms

A patent term refers to the duration for which a patent is in force, granting the inventor exclusive rights. It is important to grasp the definition of a patent term and recognize the significance it holds for inventors, businesses, and the economy as a whole.

Definition of a Patent Term

A patent term refers to the length of time, typically measured in years, during which a patent provides exclusivity to the inventor. Once a patent expires, others are free to use, sell, or produce the invention without seeking permission from the patent holder. The duration of a patent term varies depending on the type of invention and the country where the patent is granted.

In the United States, for example, utility patents, which cover new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter, have a term of 20 years from the date of filing. On the other hand, design patents, which protect the ornamental design of an object, have a term of 15 years from the date of grant.

It is worth noting that certain circumstances can affect the length of a patent term. For instance, if an inventor fails to pay maintenance fees or if the patent is subject to a patent term extension due to regulatory delays in the development of a pharmaceutical product, the term may be adjusted accordingly.

Importance of Patent Terms

Patent terms are crucial as they give inventors the opportunity to commercialize their innovations without facing immediate competition. Furthermore, patent terms serve as an incentive for inventors to disclose their inventions and contribute to the pool of knowledge available to society.

By granting exclusive rights for a limited period, patent terms encourage inventors to invest time, resources, and effort into research and development. This fosters innovation and promotes economic growth by providing inventors with a temporary monopoly on their creations.

Moreover, patent terms play a significant role in attracting investments and fostering collaboration between inventors and businesses. Investors are more likely to support inventors if they have a reasonable period of exclusivity to recoup their investments and generate profits. This, in turn, leads to the creation of jobs, the development of new industries, and the overall advancement of technology.

Additionally, patent terms contribute to the dissemination of knowledge. In exchange for exclusive rights, inventors are required to disclose their inventions in detail, enabling others to learn from and build upon their work. This knowledge sharing benefits society as a whole, as it allows for further innovation and the development of new technologies based on existing inventions.

In conclusion, understanding patent terms is essential for inventors, businesses, and the economy. The length of a patent term varies depending on the type of invention and the country, and it plays a crucial role in incentivizing innovation, attracting investments, and promoting knowledge sharing. By granting inventors temporary exclusivity, patent terms create a conducive environment for growth, progress, and the advancement of society as a whole.

What is a Disclaimed Patent Term?

A disclaimed patent term occurs when a patent holder voluntarily relinquishes a portion of the term for which they are entitled exclusive rights. This decision may be driven by various factors, such as changes in business strategies or the need to align the protection period with the invention’s market viability.

When a patent is granted, it provides the inventor with exclusive rights to their invention for a specific period of time. However, there are situations where the patent holder may choose to disclaim a portion of this term, effectively shortening the duration of their patent protection.

It is important to note that the decision to disclaim a patent term is entirely voluntary. The patent holder evaluates the circumstances surrounding their invention and makes a strategic decision based on various factors, including market dynamics, legal considerations, and business goals.

Reasons for Disclaiming a Patent Term

There are several reasons why a patent holder might choose to disclaim a portion of their patent term. For instance, in cases where the patent becomes irrelevant due to shifts in technology or market dynamics, shortening the term could allow the inventor to focus resources on more relevant innovations.

Technological advancements often disrupt industries, rendering certain patents less valuable or even obsolete. In such cases, patent holders may find it advantageous to disclaim a portion of their patent term to adapt to the changing landscape and redirect their efforts towards new areas of research and development.

Additionally, some patent holders may disclaim a portion of their term to resolve legal disputes, grant licensing opportunities, or even boost customer confidence by demonstrating a commitment to fair competition. By voluntarily relinquishing a part of their patent term, they may be able to negotiate favorable settlements or enter into licensing agreements that can generate additional revenue streams.

Furthermore, disclaiming a patent term can be a strategic move to foster innovation and encourage healthy competition within the industry. By shortening the exclusivity period, the patent holder opens up opportunities for other inventors and companies to build upon their invention, leading to further advancements and a vibrant marketplace.

Legal Implications of a Disclaimed Patent Term

From a legal standpoint, disclaiming a patent term means that the patent holder no longer has the exclusive rights to their invention for the disclaimed period. This enables others to enter the market and capitalize on the invention during that time. It is essential for patent holders to carefully consider the implications of this decision, weighing the benefits of shorter exclusivity against potential market challenges.

Disclaiming a patent term can have both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it allows the patent holder to adapt to changing market dynamics and redirect their resources towards more promising innovations. It can also foster collaboration and competition within the industry, leading to accelerated technological advancements.

However, it is crucial for patent holders to assess the potential risks associated with disclaiming a patent term. By shortening the exclusivity period, they may face increased competition from rivals who can quickly enter the market and offer similar products or services. This can pose challenges in terms of market share, revenue generation, and maintaining a competitive edge.

Ultimately, the decision to disclaim a patent term requires careful consideration of the specific circumstances surrounding the invention, the market landscape, and the long-term business objectives of the patent holder.

What is an Extended Patent Term?

An extended patent term, as the name suggests, refers to an extension granted to the initial patent term, allowing the inventor to enjoy exclusive rights beyond the original expiration date. In contrast to a disclaimed patent term, an extended term can prolong the exclusivity period, offering advantages to the patent holder and potentially impacting the market and competition.

Criteria for Patent Term Extension

The criteria for a patent term extension vary from country to country, but commonly include conditions such as regulatory delays that prevented the invention from being commercially exploited during the original term. These extensions are typically granted in industries where regulatory clearance is required before the product can enter the market.

It is important to note that patent term extensions are not automatically granted and generally require an application process, compliance with specific requirements, and proof of justification based on the applicable laws and regulations.

Benefits of an Extended Patent Term

An extended patent term offers several benefits to inventors and businesses. First and foremost, it provides additional time for the patent holder to exclusively exploit their creation in the marketplace, maximizing potential returns on investment.

Moreover, an extended term can also enable patent holders to further develop their invention, conduct additional research, and refine their product. This extra time can be invaluable in enhancing the invention’s overall functionality, safety, or effectiveness, positively impacting its long-term success.

Key Differences between a Disclaimed and Extended Patent Term

While both a disclaimed patent term and an extended patent term affect the duration of exclusivity, they differ significantly in their implications for patent holders and the market at large.

Impact on Patent Holders

A disclaimed patent term primarily affects the patent holder by shortening the period during which they possess exclusive rights. This decision acknowledges the changing landscape and allows the patent holder to adapt strategically while potentially dedicating resources to more promising innovations.

Conversely, an extended patent term enables patent holders to extend their exclusive rights, providing them with more time to monetize their invention, refine its features, and explore further market opportunities.

Impact on the Market and Competition

A disclaimed patent term opens the door for competitors to enter the market earlier, potentially fostering innovation and market competition. While this may pose challenges for the patent holder, it can benefit consumers by increasing product choices and possibly driving down prices.

On the other hand, an extended patent term limits competition and may delay market entry for potential competitors. This can create a more monopolistic environment to the advantage of the patent holder, offering them an extended period of exclusivity to establish market dominance and recover investment costs.

Case Studies: Disclaimed vs. Extended Patent Terms

Examining real-world examples can shed further light on the differences and implications between disclaimed and extended patent terms.

Disclaimed Patent Term: A Real-world Example

In the pharmaceutical industry, a company may hold a patent for a drug targeting a specific health condition. However, advancements in medical research might render the drug less effective or obsolete. In such cases, the company may choose to disclaim a portion of the patent term to adapt its business strategy, allocate resources to developing more viable treatments, and potentially collaborate with competitors in pursuit of more effective solutions.

This strategic move allows the company to embrace the evolving medical landscape and demonstrates a commitment to promoting competitive innovation for the benefit of patients and the industry as a whole.

Extended Patent Term: A Real-world Example

In the field of biotechnology, the development of complex medical devices or pharmaceuticals often requires extensive research, rigorous testing, and regulatory approvals. Delays in achieving these milestones may significantly eat into the original patent term and limit the time available for the patent holder to recoup their investments.

However, in recognition of these challenges, certain jurisdictions offer patent term extensions to protect the rights of inventors facing regulatory barriers. This extension grants patent holders the necessary additional time to navigate complex protocols, ensuring that they have a fair chance to profit from their innovation and advance the state of the art.


In summary, the differences between a disclaimed patent term and an extended patent term lie in their effect on the duration of exclusivity, impact on patent holders, and repercussions for market competition.

While disclaimed patent terms allow for flexibility in adjusting to changing circumstances, extended patent terms provide inventors with an extended window to realize the value of their creations and advance their innovations.

Understanding these concepts is essential for inventors and businesses alike, enabling them to navigate the complex world of patent law, make informed decisions about their intellectual property, and contribute to the dynamic and innovative spirit of the market.