DEFINITION of Field Of Use

Field of use is a restriction (the opposite of an endorsement) placed on a license granted for the use of an existing patent, invention or other intellectual property. It limits the scope of the licensee’s right to use it for a particular purpose, or field of use. This stops the patent or trademark from being overused or recklessly used by a single licensee, or leave the licensor free to work with other companies on other uses.


Field of use provisions in licensing agreements, provides licensors with greater control over the use of their intellectual property, while maximizing its use and value. They give owners of patents, inventions or intellectual property greater control over how they are used in the marketplace. For example, an illustrator might enter into a licensing agreement with a book publisher that limits the use of an image to the cover of a new book, preventing the image from being used in advertising campaigns. Or an antibiotic might be licensed for veterinary purposes, but not for humans.

In addition to specifying the field of use, the license may specify fields of use from which the licensee is excluded. In exclusive field of use licenses, only one licensee is authorized to use the intellectual property. Innovators often license a technology or intellectual property exclusively, but sometimes multiple licensees are needed to fully develop a technology’s potential or reach different markets.

Uses for Field of Use Licensing

Field of use licensing is particularly useful for technology and scientific research that has, or may come to have, multiple, distinct uses. For example, if a biochemistry lab at a university isolates a new gene and sequences, it could lead to many different commercial uses. This is why field of use restrictions are commonly used at universities, where teams of researchers may collectively hold a patent, but have different views about how the patent should be licensed.

Field of use licensing is often used when granting the free licenses or open licenses. This enables the license holder to profit from new uses that might be found for their intellectual property in the future. Field-of-use limitations can also raise antitrust issues when such arrangements are used to allocate markets or create cartels.