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squirrel
05-20-2010, 08:02 PM
We have a couple new products and feel they might have enough volume to justify a patent. Does anyone have experience applying on their own or should this be done by an attorney?

RTPBurnsville
05-20-2010, 08:17 PM
I have not personally filed for a patent but unless you have a pile of money to go after those that will infringe it really serves no purpose. I have been involved in development of many products in the end it's those that run faster than the competitors and have a pipeline of new and improved products that win the race, otherwise it's lost before it starts.

Robert

aostling
05-20-2010, 08:17 PM
Does anyone have experience applying on their own or should this be done by an attorney?

I intend to file without an attorney sometime in the next year, so will be greatly interested in any responses to this.

I'd also like to know how to find a good patent attorney. Is there a website with feedback?

Your Old Dog
05-20-2010, 08:44 PM
I think it's just like traffic court, you get served faster and with more respect if you are represented by council. I wonder how many, if any, of the patent applications that the patent guy stuffed up in the dropped ceiling years ago were represented by council who would be expected to follow up on it and know what to expect?

I've developed a new style of underwear...... alright, I've developed a new underwear with factory made skidmarks. I will use an attorney in my quest for a chunk of the American pie.

MotorradMike
05-20-2010, 08:55 PM
I am not a lawyer.
I have no patents.
I have friends and relations who have patents.
I have been involved with companies who have patents.
I have been involved with companies who have fought unjust patents.

Here's the deal:
If you pay enough to lawyers you can patent green orange juice.
If you can 'wiggle' some room you can work around an existing patent.
If you develop something really innovative but don't patent it you will lose the right to make it if someone else patents it.

So:
Unless you have something REALLY new and innovative such as a gravity shield, or a time machine, then don't bother unless you are in the game to screw other people and make money that way. It works great if you know how.

Nicad
05-20-2010, 09:44 PM
I spent $10,000 and had to correct the patent attorney's spelling mistakes. Was not successful. One day maybe. I am getting older and have been saying it for a while though.

TGTool
05-20-2010, 09:51 PM
I used an attorney and it's the only way I could have gotten there in '83. I have a friend who has used an attorney but then learned enough about the process and the language and description required to file his own.

There's also a book titled "Patent It Yourself" by patent attorney David Pressman that has everything you need to know to pursue the process. It's not a trivial exercise, but it you're methodical and persistent (as we know machinists are) you can do it. I filed a provisional patent application a couple of years ago (with the help of the friend and the book).

D_Harris
05-20-2010, 09:57 PM
I am not a lawyer.
I have no patents.
I have friends and relations who have patents.
I have been involved with companies who have patents.
I have been involved with companies who have fought unjust patents.

Here's the deal:
If you pay enough to lawyers you can patent green orange juice.
If you can 'wiggle' some room you can work around an existing patent.
If you develop something really innovative but don't patent it you will lose the right to make it if someone else patents it.

So:
Unless you have something REALLY new and innovative such as a gravity shield, or a time machine, then don't bother unless you are in the game to screw other people and make money that way. It works great if you know how.

And even if you have something as innovative as a "gravity shield" or a "time machine", the moment you patent you've as good as given it away. Patents are generally not really defensible if someone else really wants to profit off your idea and has more money for attorneys than you.

Last week I saw another invention similar to an idea I came up with back in the mid 80s. I've sat on several ideas for years, because even though prototypes can be created, there really is no reliable way for the little guy to protect himself, considering how incompetent and crooked the judicial system is in this country. The rich just use the system to stay richer or get richer.

Darren Harris
Staten Island, New York.

fasto
05-20-2010, 10:01 PM
I've got 3 US patents with a 4th pending, and I'm preparing a fifth. First was done through my prior employer (they're the assignee). I did nothing other than be interviewed by the patent attorney and review the submissions. I bet it was very expensive.

2nd & 3rd through my company (I own the company), so money was an object. I used a local patent attorney, though I did the majority of the work for the filings myself. The attorney was very helpful in dealing with the patent office, helping with the patent jargon, etc. Both patents took two or three go-rounds with the patent office. You submit, they reject, you resubmit, etc. I think each was $15k or so for total costs, which I have been told is very cheap. It's not yet clear if they're worth it.

4th is a joint with one of my customers. Again, I was interviewed by their patent attorney and I reviewed the submission, and I have written a lot of notes for the attorney. This one is on the 3rd or 4th resubmission - it's complex. Again, I bet this cost them a lot of money.

I have seen the "Patent your idea for $99" ads on TV. They're nuts.

Re: Motorradmike's comment that someone else can patent your idea and lock you out, that is true, sort of, unless you release your idea to public domain in some manner. It then becomes "prior art", even if it is not patented. There's an entire indistry devoted to getting around patents, too.

Boucher
05-20-2010, 10:12 PM
I think that Robert called it right. Ten years or so ago I did some work for a guy that was an electrical engineer and an attorney. He basically had his own small company that subcontracted patten investigation for a large Houston based law firm specializing in Patten Law. He basically said that if you didn't have at least ten million dollars to spend defending a patten that it was worthless. I went to college with a guy that was on the team that pattened the ball typewriter for IBM. They were fairly generous in their compensation to all the members of that team. He is the only one that I have personally known that benefitted from having a patten. I think that it is a good ego boost and it looks good on the Resume but otherwise it is probably not worth the effort.

madman
05-20-2010, 10:23 PM
I designed and built some devices. One a transport truck safety device and the good one a well drilling tool. NOW basically after some hard work and replies like wow it saved us around 10 large a well it was a waste of my time. Basuically people will **** you whenever they can and thats it>>> Nothing to add. No im NOT Bitter Im just sick of stupid people who think they are smarter than I am. (which doesnt amount to much i must add LOL) BUT makes you more wary in the future for sure. basically having a patent is a waste of money because nanyone can copy youre idea and change it am iota and there you go.. he has reason for a new patent??? Waste youre money if you wish

Mad Scientist
05-20-2010, 10:25 PM
If you develop something really innovative but don't patent it you will lose the right to make it if someone else patents it.

Mike
You are correct on all points except this one.
Once an idea has been shown to the public it is now considered "public knowledge" and can no longer be patented.

Basically a patent is a pretty document that you can hang on your wall and empress your less enlighten friends. It is like locking the doors on a convertible, it will stop people who would never think of breaking-in in the first place from breaking in. :)

wmgeorge
05-20-2010, 10:26 PM
I used an attorney and it's the only way I could have gotten there in '83. I have a friend who has used an attorney but then learned enough about the process and the language and description required to file his own.

There's also a book titled "Patent It Yourself" by patent attorney David Pressman that has everything you need to know to pursue the process. It's not a trivial exercise, but it you're methodical and persistent (as we know machinists are) you can do it. I filed a provisional patent application a couple of years ago (with the help of the friend and the book).

I've filed a couple of provisional patents, not a big deal. I have the same book, its for sale if someone is interested.

Evan
05-20-2010, 10:37 PM
Part of thr mandate of the USPTO is to not only allow you to file without legal representation but to actively assist you when filing. There are some interesting programs and incentives to file without an attorney.



Programs and Policies for Independent Inventors and Small Businesses
Inventors who qualify as a small entity (e.g., independent inventor, a small business, or a nonprofit organization) are eligible for a 50 percent reduction in the USPTO’s filing, issue and maintenance fees. That translates into a savings of thousands of dollars when compared to what large corporations pay.

The USPTO Inventors Assistance Program that is specifically geared to small inventors and entrepreneurs by:

Creating and posting computer training modules on the USPTO Web site.
Posting podcasts on the iTunes system. The computer-based training module, "Concept to Protection," has proven to be very popular.
Webcasting presentations to university business and entrepreneurship classes
Receiving and responding to inventor questions via a dedicated mailbox: independentinventor@uspto.gov
Staffing a dedicated toll-free number for independent inventor inquiries (1-800-786-9199)
Maintaining an Inventors Resource page within the USPTO Web site
Hosting education conferences. For example, the 14th Annual Independent Inventors conference will be held at the USPTO campus November 5-6, 2009, and will bring hundreds of inventors together with private- and public-sector experts in intellectual property and entrepreneurship.
The USPTO publishes a notice in its Official Gazette that a patent is available for licensing or sale. There is a modest fee (currently $25) for this service, which provides great visibility for independent inventors.

The USPTO also maintains a Trademark Assistance Center for help on trademark matters and, in particular, in understanding the trademark searching, prosecution and maintenance processes. This information is also available on our website and the Trademark database through which small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) can search for potentially conflicting federally-registered marks and pending applications.

The USPTO manages a hotline (1-866-999-HALT) under the Strategy for Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) initiative to protect their intellectual property rights in the US and abroad. This hotline is managed by attorneys with in-depth expertise in the protection and enforcement of the full range of IPR within the US and throughout the world. .

The USPTO also offers the following free programs to independent inventors:

o Intellectual Property Awareness Campaign (IPAC) "IP Basics" programs, offered nationwide since 2005 to more than 1,000 SME’s. These events include presentations on how to protect and enforce patents, trade secrets, trademarks, domain names, and copyrights domestically and internationally.

o USPTO China "Roadshows" offered to businesses throughout the US, most of which are SME’s that lack resources and expertise available to larger corporations.

o Web-based seminars on a full range of intellectual property topics that are tailored to the IP issues most critical to small businesses and independent inventors.

The USPTO, in cooperation with the Small Business Administration, provides a 1-1/2 hour Web-based "SME IP Training Tutorial" through the STOPFakes.gov Website. This provides a comprehensive overview of intellectual property including patents, trade secrets, trademarks, domain names and copyrights.

The USPTO has a network of Patent Trademark Depository Libraries (PTDL), which are a rich local resource for small businesses, research and development firms, university and governmental laboratories, and independent inventors and entrepreneurs. Services at the libraries are free, and include assistance in accessing and using patent and trademark documents, training on USPTO databases, obtaining access to the USPTO Web site, and hosting public seminars on intellectual property topics for novice and experienced innovators. There are 82 PTDL libraries in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The Obama Administration recently announced a "one-stop shop" initiative to streamline government bureaucracy and bring services directly to the businesses and entrepreneurs. The new initiative, announced by Secretary Locke in June, integrates departmental programs that can assist businesses at nearly every point of their life cycle. Commerce's varied agencies--including USPTO--support this initiative.

On October 22, Director Kappos held the first in a series of roundtable discussions with independent inventors to hear their thoughts and concerns and discuss how the USPTO can be helpful to them.

Other USPTO Programs with Benefits for Inventors and Small Businesses

The USPTO has several patent programs that hold benefits for inventors and small business. These programs help accelerate patent prosecution so that the applicant finds out more quickly whether a patent will be granted, thus speeding opportunities for potential investment and/or bringing products to market.

o Accelerated Examination: Guarantees a final action within one year. The Accelerated Examination procedure is designed to give applicants quality patents in less time. In exchange for quick examination, patent examiners will receive more focused and detailed information about the invention and the closest prior art from the applicants. This increased disclosure upfront by applicants will help examiners more quickly make the correct decision about whether a claimed invention deserves a patent.

o First Action Interview Pilot: An applicant is entitled to an interview with the patent examiner prior to the first office action on the merits in a new utility application. The program has shown that the patent process benefits when interaction between the applicant and the examiner is enhanced at the beginning of examination because patentability issues can be resolved early when the applicant and the examiner discuss them one-on-one. For the applications involved in the initial pilot, the First-Action Allowance rate increased six-fold when compared to applications from the same technology area not involved in the pilot.

o Pilot Program to Accelerate the Patent Process for Small Entity Inventors: A pilot program by which an applicant may have an application accorded special status for examination: namely, if the applicant expressly abandons another co-pending unexamined application. This program will allow applicants having multiple applications currently pending before the USPTO to have greater control over the priority with which their applications are examined while also stimulating a reduction of the backlog of unexamined patent applications pending before the USPTO. The pilot will begin as a program for small entities, with expansion to other planned for a future date.

o EFS Legal Notice: This change in procedure allows contractors rather than employees to submit the patent application documents via the EFS-Web electronic system. Since small entities are more likely to benefit from contract support (as they can't dedicate a staff resource to it), this will be particularly helpful to inventors and small entities.



http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/independent/index.jsp

Evan
05-20-2010, 10:44 PM
Once an idea has been shown to the public it is now considered "public knowledge" and can no longer be patented.


Not quite. You have 1 year to file for a patent in the US after it has been disclosed to anyone, private or public. That doesn't count employees. The disclosure must be published, not just spoken. Private letters, forum postings, slide shows and any other method of creating a hard record of the disclosure all count as "publishing".

airsmith282
05-20-2010, 10:53 PM
my question would be why get a patent in the first place i mean like its costly as hell and all anyone needs to do is change one small item even the material used and then your patent is no more good

ADGO_Racing
05-20-2010, 11:02 PM
my question would be why get a patent in the first place i mean like its costly as hell and all anyone needs to do is change one small item even the material used and then your patent is no more good

Thats why you should patent the idea in multiple forms. Thats probably where a GOOD attorney comes in handy. He will pursue the small change avenues and get it listed in the patent. Things such as materials, small modifications, etc...

sansbury
05-20-2010, 11:09 PM
Not quite. You have 1 year to file for a patent in the US after it has been disclosed to anyone, private or public. That doesn't count employees. The disclosure must be published, not just spoken. Private letters, forum postings, slide shows and any other method of creating a hard record of the disclosure all count as "publishing".

True, but that can effectively prevent you from getting international patents, and in some cases that might reduce the value of the patent considerably.

aostling
05-21-2010, 12:04 AM
Part of the mandate of the USPTO is to not only allow you to file without legal representation but to actively assist you when filing. There are some interesting programs and incentives to file without an attorney.



Thanks for the link, which I have bookmarked. Perhaps if an inventor can get this side of the USPTO working for him the Examiner will be more inclined to be favorable in assessing the claims.

Mad Scientist
05-21-2010, 11:17 AM
my question would be why get a patent in the first place i mean like its costly as hell and all anyone needs to do is change one small item even the material used and then your patent is no more good


I agree. Why even bother trying to get a patent, it can be a very costly process that can take years to complete and then assuming you are actually awarded a patent all it gives you is the right to legally go after someone who is stealing your idea. Providing you are willing to spend even more time and money chasing them down.

In my opinion one would be better off using all this time and effort to find ways of improving their product and coming up with the most efficient why to manufacture it. Plus most importantly you need to go out and actually start selling it. Are there people who will actually buy it?

EVguru
05-21-2010, 11:43 AM
I've read a lot of motorcycle suspension patents (mostly fork designs) and the majority are of no practical use. They were patents for patents sake. Many patents on other subjects are similar, however a patent is assigned an arbitary 'value' when the worth of a company is being assessed (due dilligence). Audi ran an ad campain based on the fact that there were more patents taken out while developing a particular model than NASA had filed based on the Apollo program.

fixxit
05-21-2010, 12:18 PM
Here is a link to a humorous and clear eyed look at getting a patent
The article explains what the process will do to you, and for you.

It is a good read.

http://www.tinaja.com/glib/casagpat.pdf

fixxit

sansbury
05-21-2010, 12:18 PM
I agree. Why even bother trying to get a patent, it can be a very costly process that can take years to complete and then assuming you are actually awarded a patent all it gives you is the right to legally go after someone who is stealing your idea. Providing you are willing to spend even more time and money chasing them down.

In my opinion one would be better off using all this time and effort to find ways of improving their product and coming up with the most efficient why to manufacture it. Plus most importantly you need to go out and actually start selling it. Are there people who will actually buy it?

Overall I agree with this 99%. The vast majority of products, the value is in building a large customer base, brand name, etc. Look at South Bend--was their technology ever unique?

The 1% is for the miniscule number of ideas for which a well-defined market exists, and all you need to do is manufacture and distribute the product. In these cases, a genuinely good patent can be worth a lot of money to a large established company that has the resources and infrastructure to use it. Even in these cases, you will probably need to develop a business at least into the low millions of $/yr in sales to prove the value. Needless to say, most of us tend to overestimate the value of our brilliance :)

gellfex
05-21-2010, 12:55 PM
What's been implied but unsaid here is that invention don't mean crap without marketing. Few inventors are also brilliant marketers, but those are the ones you read about. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fantastic piece about the Popeil family, inventors who started out as carnival hucksters. They could sell you the shoes you were wearing, never mind the "unique" goods they invented like pocket fishermen and rotisserie grills.

Edison: great marketer, Tesla:bad marketer. Who's revered and who's obscure?

The Apple II was created by Steve Wozniak, but he could have never built Apple up, it took Jobs the marketer. And some freely appropriated ideas from Xerox, which were in turn appropriated by MS, who were sued by Apple for stealing what they had stolen.

I've got lots of inventions and designs on the shelf, but I know I suck at marketing, I've known enough great salesmen to know what I don't have. The biggest problem for guys like us is finding a great marketer to partner with who isn't a slimebag, as they tend to be (it comes with the personality type). Then you lose it all.

I once licensed a 12v lighting design to the biggest domestic player in that market. It failed because they wouldn't price it under the the rest of their line that was far more complex to manufacture. I specifically designed it to be cheap. Did I need a better lawyer to put control of pricing into the license? You can drive yourself crazy.

lazlo
05-21-2010, 01:50 PM
True, but that can effectively prevent you from getting international patents, and in some cases that might reduce the value of the patent considerably.

Very true. If you're going to foreign-file, many countries don't have the 1 year grace period, so you have to prepare the patent filing in advance.


my question would be why get a patent in the first place i mean like its costly as hell and all anyone needs to do is change one small item even the material used and then your patent is no more good

Also very true. Patents are largely a legal instrument for corporations. Even if you find a clear infringement, any corporate legal staff can swamp you with legal proceedings.

That's nothing new, Tesla was screwed over by the Marconi corporation, even though he had the patent on radio transmission.

lazlo
05-21-2010, 01:56 PM
Perhaps if an inventor can get this side of the USPTO working for him the Examiner will be more inclined to be favorable in assessing the claims.

The USPTO is pretty favorable, in general, to claims. In fact overly so -- they only do a cursory keyword search, and will often challenge you on weird, unrelated patents that happened to have a common keyword.

There's almost always an obligatory revision request -- often completely trivial (wording or grammar). From discussion with other inventors, I gather that the patent examiners are told not to allow a patent through the system without at least one revision.

But note that if you have a fundamental patent, it can take hundreds of hours of time for you and your lawyer to write countless revisions, explain and clarify claims, etc. Also, the patent attorneys aren't skilled in the art, so on a technical patent, you spent a lot of time explaining the material to the attorneys and to the examiner. I had one patent that took 6 years to get through the system, because it covered a fundamental on-chip coherency issue. It was actually finally resolved after I had left the company from which I filed.

TGTool
05-21-2010, 02:03 PM
I heard a professor of an entrepreneurial business course make a distinction between and idea and an opportunity. Not every good idea is an opportunity. He defined opportunity as the potential to make sales level of 5 million dollars in five years. Of course you can use your own definition of opportunity but the the distinction is important.

Another useful concept is the "barrier to entry". If you launch a business to do whatever, what keeps every Tom, Dick and Harry from jumping in too and potentially beating the socks off you? The patent is one barrier, but not a particularly strong one as many have noted. Proprietary information is another. Coca Cola has never patented its formula. If it had, everyone would know how it's made, but they keep that a very closely held secret. Special manufacturing methods are another barrier. Gurdjieff found that the rug repair guys in the Mideast had a special tool and could charge high prices for easy work since no one else knew how to do it. Owens Brush has special machines for bristle insertion that keep competitors at bay unless they develop their own system at least as good or better. Capital requirements are another barrier. You don't see little mom and pop copper smelting businesses because it takes a lot of money and equipment to get started. And of course just being the junk yard dog of your industry can also work. Plenty of examples of businesses that vigilantly threaten to sue the pants off anyone looking at them cross-eyed.

So if you've got an idea for something, want to make money at it yourself and hold off the competition there are several ways but success means really thinking it through.

fasto
05-21-2010, 03:22 PM
There are other ways to use a patent besides those mentioned.
One can use it defensively. The idea being, take an existing product/patent/whatever, modify/improve it, then to prevent the originator from stopping your use of it, get a new patent covering your improvement. This happens all the time.
Or, one could design a new process that has the same start and end as an existing patent, then patent that alternate process. Having a patent for an alternate process may be sufficient protection against the originator to prevent infringement suits.
Do keep in mind that not every patent holder has warbucks. Not every patent holder can simply litigate every potential infringement. Many patents, as noted, don't have a lot of intrinsic value, but can be built upon with new patents as was intended.

TGTool
05-21-2010, 05:19 PM
A book I have has an interesting illustration of patents building on prior patents and the relative rights of each patent holder.

Suppose a caveman gets tired of sitting on the ground next to the fire, devises a log he can roll up to sit on and patents it. Anyone manufacturing logs to sit on has to deal with his rights as the patent holder.

So another guy gets tired of rolling the big log, cuts off a section he can stand on end and applies for a patent on the improvement to the sitting log. He can't sell his upended log without royalties to the earlier holder.

And yet a third man gets tired of the weight of the log so makes up pieces with small slab and sticks for legs that's much more portable. He can patent that improvement, but again he's constrained by the earlier patents and can't sell stools without agreements with the previous guys.

So you can patent improvements which an earlier patent holder can't employ without dealing with you, but you can't separately make and sell your improvement without dealing with him. I think there have been some fast and loose assertions about what can and can't be done making and patenting improvements to earlier art.

lazlo
05-22-2010, 09:26 AM
So you can patent improvements which an earlier patent holder can't employ without dealing with you, but you can't separately make and sell your improvement without dealing with him. I think there have been some fast and loose assertions about what can and can't be done making and patenting improvements to earlier art.

You're reading more into the "dealing with" part than necessary. The first page of any patent application describes related prior art, and how this invention is different. In the heading at the top there are references to related other patents and publications.

The third caveman clearly invented the chair, so he would reference prior patents of sitting on a log, but the caveman who patented the log would have no claims on the chair patent.