Many people are familiar with the concept of "color of title" in real estate transactions. However, color of title also applies in intellectual property law, which governs the ownership of information or ideas. In this context, color of title is a phrase that means having the appearance of title to a patent, but in actuality, there is either no title or a vital defect in the title. Therefore, if one has color of title, then the other (actual) patent holder has a "cloud on title" since his title has a defect or "cloud" on it.

An example where color of title may occur is when a patent to an invention passes to the inventor’s widow who sells the rights to one party, and then using the original patent documents, sells the patent to a second party who thus has color of title.

What Happens if Someone has Color of Title to a Patent?

When someone has color of title that appears to be valid on the face of the document, he may have a valid claim to initiate a quiet title action against the actual patent holder. (A quiet title action is a court proceeding to settle a title dispute). To quiet title, the patent holder must show proof that he is in fact the legal owner by defending his own title against the color of title and providing the court with evidence.

How Will I Know if I Have a Valid Title to a Patent?

An intellectual property lawyer is extremely helpful in dealing with the patent process. Whether filing a patent claim, researching, or pursuing an action for infringement, an experienced intellectual property attorney in this field is familiar with the patent process and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office procedures.