Is It Illegal to Patent Someone Else's Idea?

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Question: If I file for a patent based on an idea that somebody else had, is that illegal?

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Additional Resource: Patent Rights

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Answer: First, you cannot patent something you did not invent. The patent application includes a declaration in which the applicant swears that everything in the application is true. So if you falsely claim that you invented something when you did not, that would amount to fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which would result in a termination of any rights you may have obtained (along with possible sanctions). Second, your theft of the idea (referred to as misappropriation) may result in a separate lawsuit against you by the real inventor. That lawsuit may be based on different claims depending on your relationship with the real inventor -- for example, whether you had a confidential relationship with the actual inventor. In general theft of ideas is a dangerous game and one that usually backfires professionally and financially.