John Doe lives in the United States and wants to create a machine that sorts fruit. Rather than design and build it himself, he finds a patented commercial product that sorts fruit, but he discovers he can't afford it.

Instead, Doe decides that he will analyze photos and video of the product, reverse-engineer it's design, and build himself a replica in an effort to save money. Doe does not intend to sell his 'knockoff' fruit-sorting machine, but instead simply wants it for personal use.

Would Doe be in violation of US patent or intellectual property laws? In what ways would Doe's use of the patented design violate the law, if so? Or, is there an affirmative defense that Doe would have in this hypothetical?

1 Answer 1


Patent rights do not only protect against commercial use. 35 U.S. Code § 271 states that "whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent". By making or using the patented machine, Doe infringes the patent.

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