What is a terminal disclaimer?
When an inventor already has a patent issued on an invention and files another patent application on essentially the same invention, only making changes deemed obvious, the USPTO will likely require that the applicant sign a binding agreement to limit the second patent, referred to as a “terminal disclaimer.” In general terms, the disclaimer will state that the later patent will expire at the same time as the former one, and will further state that the later patent will be enforceable only if both the first and second patents remain commonly owned. A quick example would be as follows: Patent A is issued and later Patent B is issued to the same inventor with a terminal disclaimer attached. Under these circumstances, Patent B will have the same expiration date as Patent A, even though it was filed later.
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Dr. Thomas R. (Terry) Williamson III is a Patent Attorney practicing in Atlanta, Georgia.
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