Forging A Patent Document

PatentLawPic28718 U.S.C. § 497 creates a the felony crime of forging a patent document. According to the statute:

“Whoever falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any letters patent granted or purporting to have been granted by the President of the United States; or Whoever passes, utters, or publishes, or attempts to pass, utter, or publish as genuine, any such letters patent, knowing the same to be forged, counterfeited or falsely altered–

The punishment is “not more than ten years” of federal prison.  I was unable to find any reported decisions that apply or even interpret Section 497.  Unlike the marking statute, there is no provision that would allow a private action against under this statute. 

A general fraud claim would create standing for a civil action. However, the plaintiff would need to show particular harm — unlike a Section 292 plaintiff.

11 thoughts on “Forging A Patent Document

  1. 11

    It looks to me like the words “letters patent” in section 497 refer only to the “ribbon copy.”
    Most genuine patentees have no idea where their “ribbon copy” is. So far as I know, if courts ever required plaintiffs to have it (as courts require plaintiffs to produce the original written contracts they wish to enforce), the practice has been abandoned.
    If genuine patentees usually don’t have their ribbon copies handy, why should sham patentees ever need to forge equivalent fakes?

  2. 10

    Seems to me that an attempt to assert a forged patent would not survive even a cursory due diligence on the part of the assertee.

    Great dramatic value though… has the makings of a great movie. I can see it now, some flim flam man, John Cusak maybe, waving a forged patent document through the offices of his competitor. We could also cast Dana Carvey and Anthony Hopkins and a host of other great cameos. Maybe Brigit Fonda is free.

    For those who didn’t get the hidden reference, I highly recommend “Road to Wellville” especially for all those who are a little concerned about the current epidemic of forged patents.

  3. 9

    …while it’s perfectly legal to “forge” ones qualifications (O.K., maybe “mischaracterizing” is more accurate) in order to gain a top PTO leadership position…that virtually no one but your parents and new boss are willing to say that you’re in anyway qualified to hold…

  4. 8

    Of course, we’re all overlooking the obvious – THE STATUTE WORKS! and is crystal clear. That’s why there are no reported decisions or even interpretations of Section 497.

  5. 7

    I meant to post:

    Ohio seems to have had a forgery of letters patent on the books as early as 1842. See State v. Bronson, 1 West.L.J. 222, 1 Ohio Dec.Reprint 31. (mentioning forgery of letters patent in case re: peddler’s license is not the subject of forgery under the law of Ohio).

  6. 6

    It looks like the patent counterfeiting statute was enacted Mar. 4, 1909. Ohio seems to have had a forgery of letters patent on the books as early as 1942. See State v. Bronson, Ohio Com.Pl. 1842. (mentioning forgery of letters patent in case re: peddler’s license is not the subject of forgery under the law of Ohio). Weems v. U.S. 217 U.S. 349 (1910) mentions forgery of letters patent. See link to There’s also 17 USC 506(a) (Forgery of copyright), 18 USC § 2320(a) (Forgery trademarks – see 5 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition § 30:114 Criminal counterfeiting penaltie). From

    From U.S. v. Cowan:
    link to

    “A review of the texts of other related statutes lends support to our construction of § 505. See Hubbard v. United States, 514 U.S. 695, 700-02, 115 S.Ct. 1754, 1758, 131 L.Ed.2d 779 (1995) (proper method of analyzing a statutory term’s “context” to determine when a presumptive definition must yield requires an examination of the text surrounding the word in question and the texts of other related statutes). Chapter 25 of Title 18 of the United States Code proscribes numerous acts pertaining to counterfeiting and forgery. Like § 505, the texts of other statutes in Chapter 25 designed to protect the integrity of government functions do not include the intent to defraud as an element of the crime of forgery. E.g., 18 U.S.C. § 485 (prohibiting forgery of coins or bars in denominations greater than five cents); 18 U.S.C. § 490 (prohibiting forgery of one and five cent coins); 18 U.S.C. § 493 (prohibiting forgery of writings issued by certain federal financial institutions); 18 U.S.C. § 496 (prohibiting forgery of documents pertaining to imports and customs duties); 18 U.S.C. § 497 (prohibiting forgery of letters patent); 18 U.S.C. § 498 (prohibiting forgery of military certificates of discharge); 18 U.S.C. § 499 (prohibiting forgery of military passes); 18 U.S.C. § 501 (prohibiting forgery of domestic postage stamps); 18 U.S.C. § 502 (prohibiting forgery of foreign postage stamps); 18 U.S.C. § 506 (prohibiting forgery of government seals).”

  7. 5

    “Whoever falsely makes… any letters patent granted or purporting to have been granted by the President of the United States”

    The Patent Office issues patents that grant “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States”.

    Forgery is the process of making documents, with the intent to deceive.

    Since the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office issues these certificates and the USPTO and Courts allows infringers to continue to infringe while they outspend an inventor and try to grind him to submission, and until the grant expires, isn’t this falsely made grant offering “the right to exclude” what 18 U.S.C. § 497 makes criminal?

    From my experience seems like it.

  8. 3

    Who comes up with these statutes? Was the mob trafficking in counterfeit patents? Was this part of Kefauver’s anti-corruption tour in the early 50’s? Or did Bobby Kennnedy push this to punish the labor unions? And what about the underground market in fake trademark or copyright registrations?

    Quick — somebody from the AIPLA needs to check Ebay to see if any counerfeit patent uttering is taking place.

  9. 2

    You are right i have had a patent of mine violated for years , I had a partner who in turn went partners with some 1 else they used my patent and still do for 10 years . When i went to the FBI in Tampa they said it was a civil matter and they do not prosacute issues such as this. It also involved trade secret with my original patner any 1 have any sugestions I have 4 pages of events as they happened .

  10. 1

    I can figure what the sink is for, but not the gist of or question presented in the article. Did someone forge a patent?, or is this a follow up to the May 1st “False Marking” article?

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