It’s funny the vast differences acronyms have. On Instagram, “FTO” stands for “flexible time off,” and on Facebook, it stands for the game “Faery Tale Online.” For purposes of this article and in the patenting world, an FTO is an assessment of the ability to make, use, and/or sell products/services without infringing another party’s rights.
Do I need an FTO performed if I already have a patent?
Now for my favorite attorney answer…it depends. First, we must understand what rights a patent gives.
A registered patent provides the owner of a useful, new, and non-obvious invention of patentable subject matter with the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention for a limited period of time.
Isn’t “legal right to exclude” just a fancy legal way of saying that I have the right to make, use or sell my patented invention?
No! The right to exclude does not mean the same as the right to make, use, or sell.
To illustrate this, suppose inventor Sue Yoo develops and patents a system – that has not been previously invented – for preventing the sinking of a boat with a breached hull. The patented invention involves manually or automatically deploying helium-filled balloons which provide the boat with the ability to remain afloat. From these basic facts, it appears that Sue Yoo’s invention met the requirements for patentability, it is useful (prevents boats from sinking), new (hasn’t been previously invented), non-obvious (debatable but hey, for our purposes it’s not obvious), and of patentable subject matter (trust me on this one).