I would like to start a business renting out a specific air conditioning unit which doesn't need to be plugged in. Since this is such a break through product it has many patents and has successfully sued many companies who have infringed upon it. My question is: Can I buy these machines from the company or from other companies who make similar machines and then rent them out to the general public? Is this patent infringement? The have patented the machine, not the service, but I'm still wary of proceeding.
While I generally agree with the others that if you buy the patented product from the company that holds the patents, then the first sale doctrine or exhaustion would allow you to do this. But if you buy products from "other companies who make similar machines" then all bets are off. If you buy a product that infringes someone else's patents, and then rent it, you would likely be liable for patent infringement. You could be liable if you make, sell, offer to sell, use, or import an infringing product. I would say leasing infringing products likely constitutes "use" of the infringing product.
No, it's not patent infringement because you're not making a competing product, but I'm guessing it violates the contractual terms the seller has, and may not even be a viable business model since it would require repair and maintenance of these machines.
The whole point of a patent is to restrict the market, and here, if the seller is an authorized dealer in this patented product, they may not be able to wholesale them to you so you can sell or rent them yourself.
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You might also want to contact an engineer. Last I knew, perpetual motion was not working out.
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This probably would not be patent infringement (unless there is a patent covering not only the air conditioning unit, but also methods of distributing it (such as rental). (It is not impossible that there would be a patent covering a method distribution including rental, but such patent would likely be invalid as lacking novelty and obvious----but that is just a guess). Your problem here will not be patent infringement---rather, the terms and conditions of the contracts pursuant to which you purchase the machines will likely prohibit you from renting or reselling them---companies that sell products such as this often engage in franchising whereby they grant exclusive licenses to their franchises to distribute (sell or rent) their products. It doubt that you would be permitted to rent the products without striking a deal with the manufacturer.
One of the reasons why manufacturers may not be willing to allow you to engage in this business is that there are complex issues concerning who would be responsible for honoring warranties covering the products, repair the products, supply parts needed to repair the products, and cover injuries that might arise if any of the products are defective and cause harm to customers. If you want to go into the business of renting products such as these, you will need business and IP counsel to navigate you through a host of legal and regulatory issues such as those set forth above. This may prove to be an impractical and highly risky business model.
NO, that is likely legal. There is a patent exhaustion doctrine that likely protects you in this. Google it or Wikipedia it for details. If there is more to this to make you worried, consult an IP attorney and ask for a free exam or repost here with more detail. Do not give any identifying information. You have already given enough to identify you when you do this.
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
Are you buying the product from the patent owner or its licensee, or from one of the accused infringers? There may be an issue if you are using the infringing product. If you buying an authorized product, patent exhaustion should apply. But you should be careful with how you advertise. Saying your service uses another company's product is one thing, but suggesting that your service is sponsored by that company may be a trademark issue (for example, saying that you use X brand with your service is probably fair use, but prominently using the X brand to suggest that company is standing behind the service may violate the Lanham Act).
This answer is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all of the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
Patent exhaustion is a important issue (as the purchase of the product from the patent holder would provide you a license to use), but it is not the only issue.
The starting point is to get a copy of the patents and review the claims. There is a chance that the claims of the patents do not cover the product(s) you are looking at sourcing. Further, if you buy the product from a competitor, one risk management technique is to ask that they warrant their product against claims of patent infringement. I would suggest that you talk to a patent attorney on this matter.
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