Am I committing patent infringement if the function is the same but construction is different?


I know there are other products out there similar to the one my partner and I are working on. We are a new start up and want to be sure that we don't get into any trouble in the future by stepping on a patent. What I would like to know is if my product is similar to someone elses, would it infringe on their patent?

I will use this as an example. Say we are inventing a radio. The other companies radio patent says it does so many different things. Our radio will use different electronics internally, operate slightly differently with mostly the same results. Let me try to clarify....

Competitors Radio - Works off 4 AA batteries, uses a push button to turn it on and off, uses a knob to change the channels and has 1 speaker to put out the sound.

Our Radio - Works off 4 AA batteries, uses a push button to turn it on and off, uses a knob to change the channels and has 1 speaker to put out the sound and beeps when the batteries gets low.

While they do the same things and get the results, the internal electronics are different and ours does one extra thing. Are we infringing on our competitors patent? I know it sounds confusing and I apologize.

Legal Patent Business

asked Sep 6 '11 at 00:31
Mike Serpe
6 points
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3 Answers


Adding a feature doesn't exclude you from a patent. And changing how the internal electronics work won't exclude you from a patent if the patent doesn't include the internal electronics. They could have patented a device with 4 batteries, a knob, and a speaker. So the question becomes, what has the competitor patented? The patent numbers are sometimes advertised by the company or on the product. And don't forget that someone else could have patents covering your product that isn't your competitor at all.

answered Sep 6 '11 at 05:15
B Mitch
1,342 points
  • The patent has drawings but are very vague. So the interals are different, we know that for a fact the the function is basically the same. That is why I'm concerned. – Mike Serpe 12 years ago
  • @Mike, Vagueness could be intentional to cover similar products. – B Mitch 12 years ago
  • @BMitch........if that's the case, then it would present a monoploy situation which would be illegal. Grrr..... – Mike Serpe 12 years ago
  • @Mike, patents are a legalized monopoly by definition. – B Mitch 12 years ago
  • @BMitch......if that's the case, then how does anything get made? How can there be any competition...such as in radio manufactuers, tv manufactuers, etc? We'd all be buying Sony TV's and Sony get my point. How can the government legalize a monopoly? – Mike Serpe 12 years ago
  • @Mike, licensing fees, and eventually stuff falls out of patent protection. If someone has a patent, and you want to make it, you either make it in a non-infringing way, or you get a licence from the patent holder. The government can legalize whatever they want. – B Mitch 12 years ago
  • Guess it's time to blow some money on a lawyer..... – Mike Serpe 12 years ago


it could be that their patent is very weak (if it's too vague) and would be easily defeated after an expensive legal fight. Your call.

answered Sep 27 '11 at 06:26
51 points


Here's a related question that you might want to take a look:

How do I know if I am infringing on a technology patent? Coming back to your question, are you sure that the competitor company actually has patent on those "features" which you're talking about? It's not necessary that since they provide those features, they have got patent(s).

answered Sep 6 '11 at 04:58
Atul Goyal
496 points
  • The claims in the patent are very similar if not the same as to what our product does. – Mike Serpe 12 years ago
  • @Mike Serpe Then it sounds like they have a very strong case for infringement by your product, unfortunately. – Chelonian 12 years ago

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