On Fri, 1 Oct 1999, Jeff Davis wrote:
> Which lead to my question.
My impression is that a patent in no way prevents any use. A patent
"holder" is allowed to dictate/enforce that it can not be used
(by anyone). So you have to go into court and prove that the
patent was infringed. The only possible exception to this that I'm
aware of is that you may be allowed to infringe on patents if it can be
demonstrated you are doing so in the process of developing something for
FDA approval (in the U.S.).
> Does a patent prohibit all unlicensed use of the patented thingie, or just
> the unlicensed *commercial* use?
> Which lead to my question.
My impression is that a patent in no way prevents any use. A patent "holder" is allowed to dictate/enforce that it can not be used (by anyone). So you have to go into court and prove that the patent was infringed. The only possible exception to this that I'm aware of is that you may be allowed to infringe on patents if it can be demonstrated you are doing so in the process of developing something for FDA approval (in the U.S.).
[I would like some more in-depth confirmation of this.]
> Or, to use a pointed example, if I start a cryonics cooperative,
> which is a non-commercial organization whose members perform their
> own suspensions on one another, and don't sell anything to anyone,
> can I, without paying the patent holders, and without legal vulnerability,
> use patented equipment, materials, or procedures?
If there is another organization (perhaps a Cryonics organization) holding the patent rights, then they *can* prevent you from using said equipment, materials, procedures in the countries in which the patent is valid (if the courts enforce the patents).
In the Cryonics business, I doubt there is much incentive for invoking patent restrictions against others. You would have to make the case that the revenue you would gain by forcing customers to switch to you (as the supplier) would offset any legal costs required for patent enforcement.
Patents related to Cryonics are an interesting area, since most of the people involved would like to promote the field. Presumably they would like to license (on a non-exclusive basis) patent rights (for freezing procedures, ice-blocking agents, antifreezes, etc.) to as many Cryonics organizations as possible [because if everyone uses the best methods, it promotes Cryonics as a legitimate activity.]
Whether they want to license those materials/methods on a non-exlusive basis to other organizations (for say organ transplants) is an open question because it depends on the potential revenue involved. People will pay more for an exclusive license than a non-exclusive license. I think, in general, until the volume of transplants or cryonics suspensions moves up at least 2-3 orders of magnitude that any potential revenue from patents in these fields is likely to be minimal (so the costs of trying to protect/enforce the patents would exceed the revenues gained from such enforcement).
Unless you can force defendents in patent suits to pay the enforcement costs (Greg or someone else who knows this should comment), then it seems to make little sense to pursue these options until the markets are much larger.