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j king
12-23-2010, 10:24 PM
I had a need and built something. It worked better than I had hoped.

Now I am starting to think I have a money opportunity here.I tried to do a patent search but got side tracked quickly.

I dont really want to get into building and distributing a product but doent know how to sell the idea to a company without giving the idea away..It doesnt take alot to build so it would be easy to design and copy it.

What would you guys suggest? Money is really no problem to develop this but time is.Never home but if it could become big I have a teen that could work at this maybe.. Thanks guys Jim

gary350
12-23-2010, 10:54 PM
Rules have changed. Last time I checked fee has gone way up and you have to pay a maintenance fee every 3 years to keep the patent. In the past every Tom Dick and Harry could get a patent and they do nothing with it. It is too much paper work so the goverment made it harder for the small guy to get a patent.

Next problem if you get a patent and someone wants to steal your idea all they have to do is make a few changed then get their own patent on their new idea. Nothing you can do about it.

Paul Alciatore
12-24-2010, 12:27 AM
I am actively looking into ideas that I can build and sell. As for patents, I have completely given up on them. Do read the comments of Don Lancaster.

My approach is to look for ideas that are not worth stealing by the big corporations. Just make a high quality or improved product and sell it at the best price possible. If I get ripped off, I'll just move on to the next idea. Besides, what better reconendation for your ideas than having it ripped off.

Mad Scientist
12-24-2010, 12:30 AM
Personally I would forget about trying to get a patent. First it would cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. Then if you succeed in getting a patent it will not prevent someone from stealing your idea. The only thing it does is allow you to spend more of your time and money suing them in the hope of getting them to stop using your idea.

If it is something that is easy to make I would consider making it yourself. Build assembly fixtures and tooling to make building it as quick and as easy as possible. Is it something you could sell yourself by handing out fliers or placing adds in newspapers, magazines etc.

If it is something you want to sell to a company you can tell them what it does and if they are interested then you ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement then you will describe how it is made. This basically says that if they decide to use your idea then they will pay you for it and if they donít they will not tell anyone else about it. This will not give you 100% protection, but then nothing will, and it is better then nothing and it is quick an easy thing to do.

dewat
12-24-2010, 12:42 AM
There is a program on PBS called Everyday Edisons that deals with this situation, here's the link

http://www.everydayedisons.com/



.

Frank Ford
12-24-2010, 02:52 AM
My approach is to look for ideas that are not worth stealing by the big corporations. Just make a high quality or improved product and sell it at the best price possible. If I get ripped off, I'll just move on to the next idea.

Exactly, and that's just what I've done with my little products, the most successful of which, Jack the Gripper (http://www.frets.com/HomeShopTech/Products/JackTheGripper/jackthegripper.html) , I've sold close to 20 grand worth at wholesale over that last coupla years to an outfit that retails them.

Keeps me in practice cranking handles, and buys me some hardware. . .

Evan
12-24-2010, 03:37 AM
The main purpose for a patent these days is to provide grounds for legal action, not to protect an idea. Ripping off patents is a business model for many companies. In fact, even just obtaining a patent on your device could expose you to a lawsuit that would prevent you from doing anything with the idea.

snowman
12-24-2010, 07:27 AM
The main purpose for a patent these days is to provide grounds for legal action, not to protect an idea. Ripping off patents is a business model for many companies. In fact, even just obtaining a patent on your device could expose you to a lawsuit that would prevent you from doing anything with the idea.

Not only what Evan says, but the reality of patent law is that it's not the amount of fight in the dog, it's how much money the dogs owner has to keep paying the lawyers until you can no longer afford to buy Ole Roy for your dog to keep fighting.

Meaning, make your money while you can, if someone thinks your idea is good enough to rip off, they are going to, regardless of whether you own the patent or not...and if they don't, then it'll just have one little portion of the claim reworded so that your patent is worthless.

aboard_epsilon
12-24-2010, 08:43 AM
since the internet came along ..all patents are now shared on-line ..drawings diagrams the idea behind it

you could patent something at great cost ..and someone else (the Chinese) will see your idea ..and be making it before you...selling it and shipping it half way around the world before you .


i belong to a welsh innovators club ..some in that club are getting on in life ..do not have the internet..and have paid out thousands to patent something ..

and didn't believe me that their whole patent was on-line for everyone to see and copy ..I had to take the diagrams to the next meeting ..before they would believe me ..boy were they pissed off.


all the best.markj

brian Rupnow
12-24-2010, 09:09 AM
I have worked with a number of inventors over the years, and the general concensus is that patents make money for patent lawyers and do very little for anyone else. The general rule is, that the first person to market wins. Mass produce, flood the market, make you money in the first 3 years, then invent something else. or---Patent your item and lease the patent to a manufacturing company. I have a friend who draws well over $100,000 a year from royalties paid by companies who produce and sell the item he holds the patent for.

torchroadster
12-24-2010, 09:14 AM
Patents have their place. Many seem to be down on them but a well written patent does indeed protect your invention - if it is indeed novel. Some things you may want to consider:

The key point is well written - drafting the claims and getting them approved by the patent office is something that an experienced patent attorney should do for you. Figure out what this will cost you and decide if there is a business case for making the investment in a patent. Yes there are filing fees and maintenance fees and of course the attorney fees. It's not cheap that's why you need to decide if the money you may make is worth it. If you really feel someone may try to copy your invention figure in the additional cost of legally defending it.

Yes, someone can change something and "copy" your invention - but only to the extent they can avoid your patent claims. This is where well written claims are extremely important. The patent attorney's objective will be to get the most general and broad reaching patent claims approved. For example its better to have a patent on a screwdriver, than a #2 Phillips head, 6", steel screwdriver with plastic handle.

The Chinese (or anyone else) can't violate your U.S. patent and sell the product in the U.S. However your U.S. patent only protects you in the U.S. If you want global coverage you have to file in all the countries where you want protection. There is a coordinated approval process for many countries but you still have individual filing and maintenance fees.

Your patent application immediately becomes public information - regardless if a patent is ever issued.

I am not an attorney.

Evan
12-24-2010, 09:25 AM
Yes, someone can change something and "copy" your invention - but only to the extent they can avoid your patent claims.

A patent's usefulness in protecting your invention is directly proportional to the amount of money you have to pay a lawyer. Then the most you can expect is to get an injunction to stop the infringer from selling the item. If they don't stop then you have to sue again to establish contempt of the court order.

KiloBravo
12-24-2010, 12:08 PM
I "believe" you can pay an application fee for a patent and be protected for one year without actually having to pay for the patent. I had a class with a patent attorney once and he said that was a cheap way to go. The application fee was only $35 and then you had a year to actually shop your idea around with out all the expensive fees.

nheng
12-24-2010, 01:28 PM
You can file a "Provisional Patent". It is good for one year. I'm not sure how much it costs as we have a patent attorney/firm on sort of a retainer.

I thought patents had become a huge waste of time but in the last few years have discovered that what they have become is insurance against having to defend yourself against someone with deeper pockets.

If you have been building something for years before others and have internal notes, drawings, etc. that back this up, you own the right to continue building it even though someone else patents it.

The problem is that before you reach a point where you have proved this (to the competitor's attorney's and/or the courts) you have probably spent at least several tens of thousands of $$ defending your right.

If you patent it first, now you're the one in the driver's seat, even if someone else has been making it before you.

We went thru the former in the past 2 years and it was neither cheap nor fun. We have the right to continue manufacture but it cost upwards of $100k (just internal and legal costs, no licensing involved).

Still, it seems like the system has become pure BS such as this, coupled with patents of "applications" rather than real stuff. You could probably patent the use of a garden hose to water a garden ... no joking, it's pretty close to this. People are patenting the use of off the shelf products, combined with other off the shelf products, to perform a task that THEY WERE MADE TO DO IN THE FIRST PLACE !!

Den

aostling
12-24-2010, 01:32 PM
... even just obtaining a patent on your device could expose you to a lawsuit that would prevent you from doing anything with the idea.

Evan,

Could you expand on this? Im planning on applying for a patent, and want to know more.

Black Forest
12-24-2010, 01:41 PM
Unless your idea is worth millions forget the patent. Patent infringement is very expensive from both sides of the patent. I have international patents and it is very expensive to maintain and protect. The amount of zero's involved in patent fee's and infringement legal fee's are astronomical.

Evan
12-24-2010, 05:10 PM
Could you expand on this? Im planning on applying for a patent, and want to know more.


It places your invention complete with claims and functional details plus drawings in an easily searchable database. That makes it relatively easy for one of the predatory IP only corps to find out that your invention exists and to then try to extort money from you with the threat of legal actions if your invention is even remotely similar to IP that they own.

There are many such Intellectual Property Corps in business now and the staff consists mainly of attorneys and secretarys that spend all day perusing the new patent applications and recent patents to find something they can go after.

They buy up IP from defunct companies. Many times when a company fails or closes for any reason the value of the IP is completely forgotten, especially patents and licences for patents. The IP can often be picked up for peanuts if they can find the actual owner. This then becomes their arsenal for greenmailing other companies. It is a dirty and unethical business model but it isn't illegal.

john hobdeclipe
12-24-2010, 05:24 PM
Several years ago I developed a simple device that would be of some help in certain woodworking situations. I had a couple of prototypes made, did some testing, then talked to a small business adviser at the nearby university. We did some preliminary searches, and found that nothing like my device seemed to exist in the patent archives, and then we talked about money. He said it would cost a minimum of about $10,000 (in 1994 dollars) to go through the entire process and get the patent IF everything went smoothly.

Then came the sobering question...Could I ever actually make and sell enough of these to get back the ten grand and eventually show a profit, or would I just end up with a ten thousand dollar doorstop and a pretty certificate on my wall?

I decided not to pursue it.

Pherdie
12-24-2010, 05:50 PM
There are many such Intellectual Property Corps in business now and the staff consists mainly of attorneys and secretarys that spend all day perusing the new patent applications and recent patents to find something they can go after.

Evan is absolutely correct with this information. This has become a huge 'business' with a disproportionate amount of U.S. cases being heard in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, Tyler, Texas (a story in itself). Entities filing suits in IP cases are lovingly referred to as "Patent Trolls". It's an ugly nasty business and getting worse all the time.

Thank an attorney.....

fixerdave
12-24-2010, 06:08 PM
Being an "idea" guy that comes from an "idea" family, I can't count how many times I've seen products for sale that "we" invented. From this, I've come to the realization that A) most things are invented many times before the right idea gets to the right person, and B) I'm not the right person.

The other thing I've come to realize is that having a good idea is very annoying. If it's a really, really good idea, telling someone risks that person being the money-maker, which is the usual course of things. So, I don't tell, and it just weighs on me year after year, until I see it for sale, with some else making all the money (though I expect it's not the guy that came up with the idea). Business people exist for a reason...

Sometimes, I wish I could meet up with a really good business guy, someone that knows what he's doing and not just a load of talk... problem is, how do you tell before the guy makes so much money he doesn't want to talk with you? I suspect that "Paul Alan - Bill Gates" kind of thing only comes by once in a while. Most of the Paul Alan types in the world are anonymous and dirt-poor because the Bill Gates types took everything. Sigh... it sucks having ideas. The business guys can just hunt around for some good idea to steal and they're away to the races... the idea guys either get screwed or keep their ideas to themselves and get nothing.

Even worse... is when you have an idea that's great and you've resigned yourself to not getting anything for it, but you just want to see it happen... and nobody will even listen to you. So many big companies now have specific legal regimes where they deliberately refuse to even allow anyone to present them with ideas. Basically a big corporate "my fingers are in my ears... NA NA NA" kind of thing. They don't want to be in a position where they might get sued. I have ideas that would revolutionize how Google does business - make them billions more... they don't want to hear. I know how to flip advertising on it's head such that people would actively seek out advertising rather than ways to block it out. Think I can get anyone to listen? I couldn't even give a free video skit idea to those idiots making the Mac verses PC commercials... I actually sent the production company an email with the words "FREE IDEA, no Copyright retained" in the subject line. Their response: "I'm sorry but for legal reasons we can't review your submission." The whole point of the Internet is to increase the speed that ideas can spread around. The only ideas that get spread are ways to increase my penis size. F'n lawyers.

I have a website idea that would let creators of digital content (anything, music, writing, plans and kits, magazines... anything you could imagine) make money while distributing it for free. It's a website that would revolutionize the Internet, it even has an immediate revenue stream and would only take maybe 6-months of a decent PHP coder's time. But, it won't go anywhere without someone with Business savvy. That's not me. I'm actually trying to sell the idea (http://keliso.blogspot.com) but, nada.

Ideas are worth nothing by themselves. It's like that piece of steel in the corner. It's worth nothing until the right person carves it into a shape so it's worth something. Business people exist for a reason. And, you know, just like that great piece of steel sitting in the corner, a great idea just gets in the way until the right person comes along, if ever.

sigh, sorry to sound so discouraging,

David...

j king
12-24-2010, 06:23 PM
Well I went to the pbs site of the inventors show. Got almost all filled out and then got to the question to show what competing products are out there and to add a link.

I found several products that were priced about 15-20 bucs above what I thought I would be happy to sell for retail.I didnt know there were products that were that inexpensive. I kinda said the heck with it and closed up link. A couple friends came over and I showed them and they thought it was great..Thought it would fly..I dont know...This has a long life and nothing to crap out. The competitors are built fancy but I know the life is short..Very limited for sure. Mine uses another source for powering it where theirs has a cheap motor that once it fails it is junk. Others have air powered but you lose portability.Mine uses a tool everyone has and has multiples..It really slick and simple..It had to be for me to come up with it.LOL!!

Ill ponder it for a while..If I had a clue on how to get pricing for 3 or 4 parts to be made I would know what to do..Would love to have everything made in the states! I wish I could show and tell but I know how the world works sorry to say..I can say I need a tube with one or no ends capped.other end would need threaded.Both ends could be threaded.Then I need two end caps and another part which is a very simple part. Hell the whole thing is a simple unit.Thats the wonderful thing about this..Just need to produce it in production ,not by piece work..Thanks for all your replies guys. Have a wonderful holiday and a great new year! Jim

sansbury
12-24-2010, 09:23 PM
I started my own company 7 years ago and in that time I have learned a lot. The two biggest things I learned:

1. Know your exit strategy: Are you going to crank profits for 5 years then close up shop, sell the business off, etc.? Figure out where you want to end up and then work every day towards that.

2. "Different enough" is very different: We live in a world of incredible abundance of products and your biggest challenge is to get people to pay attention. If there are products that solve the same problem, are close in price, and offer similar performance, how will you get people to pay attention to you? An established company (eg DeWalt) can come out with this year's model that's 5% better than last year's, but as a new entrant with no reputation, you probably need to be 50-100% better in order to make anyone care.

gmatov
12-25-2010, 12:55 AM
David,

All else you say could be true, but for this:

"I suspect that "Paul Alan - Bill Gates" kind of thing only comes by once in a while. Most of the Paul Alan types in the world are anonymous and dirt-poor because the Bill Gates types took everything."

Actually his name is Allen.

And, actually, Paul Allen still is the 37th richest person in the world. He didn't lose out much to Bill Gates. He got cancer 3 years after MS hit it big and never returned to the Company, BUT he did have 200 million or more shares OF MS in his name. He became richer because the Company became more valuable, and I don't think he regrets his decision,

Still involved with MS, though I don't know if he gets much in pay.

"Most of the Paul Alan types in the world are anonymous and dirt-poor because the Bill Gates types took everything."

That is laughable. The man is rich as Croesus, and as well known as Bill his own self.

Pick another goat, maybe the guy who made the "mouse" and did not get a penny from it, though there is not a computer that is made today that does not use some form of it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Allen

Cheers,

George

Gently
12-25-2010, 01:06 AM
Slap a custom logo on it and then trademark it. It is not as good as a patent but it is much cheaper and you always have your "trademark" then if anyone else sells it you should get royalties.

Just a quick idea.

FYI in regards to a patent you do not really need a lawyer to sue someone who may steal it, Just get law enforcement involved under "theft of intelluctual property". Then after you win or loose file a lawsuit for civil liability.

Evan
12-25-2010, 02:56 AM
Just get law enforcement involved under "theft of intelluctual property".

That only applies to information that isn't public. Anything patented is public and if you try to file a report on that you could end up in trouble for filing a false report. I have had to go that route when an employee of a software company tried to steal software that I had provided for evaluation under a strict non disclosure agreement. The police were happy to deal with it but the the final result was that my software became unsaleable because I could no longer warrant that it hadn't escaped from my control. I could have sued the company but that would have cost a great deal.

A trademark protects only the trademark, not the product to which it is applied. You can get a "design patent" which protects the very specific appearance of the product. If your product is in some way limited to a very specific appearance by the nature of what it does then a design patent can provide a measure of protection but you still have to enforce it yourself.

If your product contains proprietary features that can be concealed when incorporated in the product then you can protect it from copying by declaring it a Trade Secret. To do that requires due diligence on your part to keep the secret as secret. The most famous example it perhaps the formula for Coca Cola which is widely reported to be kept in a large vault somewhere. Flavour formulae have the property of being very difficult to reverse engineer once the ingredients are mixed together. Hardware can be concealed by potting parts in epoxy resin. Circuits can be concealed by using coded house numbers on ICs or just grinding off the numbers. The main thing is that a trade secret must actually be a secret and protected as such. You still have to enforce it yourself.

Reverse engineering a product is both legitimate and legal. It is done by everyone to find out how products work. Once that is determined a set of specifications can be developed that make no reference to the actual product design. Those specs then may be assigned to a design team that has no familiarity with the existing product that was reverse engineered. What they produce is then a "clean room" design that can be defended against claims of infringement. This is very common in software development but can also be used for other more tangible designs for hard products. You still have to defend the design yourself.

fixerdave
12-25-2010, 03:53 AM
...And, actually, Paul Allen still is the 37th richest person in the world. ...
George

Actually, that was my point. He was a tech guy that actually did get rich by working with a business guy, Gates. Most of the idea guys don't, and we never hear about them, and they certainly don't get their own Wikipedia page.

But, yes, I did misspell his name :o

I'd love to make a business guy rich if he were willing to drag me along with him. I'm just saying that this is the exception rather than the rule. From casual observation, I'd say it's the business guy that gets rich while the idea guy gets forgotten.

David...

Evan
12-25-2010, 05:17 AM
What made Bill so wealthy was a single decision he made at the very beginning. When Jobs came to him looking for BASIC to run on the Apple 1 Mr. Gates made him a very attractive offer. Instead of selling him the right to use Basic for his product he licensed it on a per unit basis. This was very attractive because it was very affordable. Instead of paying 10,000 that they didn't have they could pay as they go after they sold a machine. Microsoft adopted that business model for everything they sold after that. It wasn't MS Dos (CPM lightly disguised) that got MS going, it was licensing Basic. The Apple, the PET, Tandy, TI, Coleco, Osbourne, Atom, Atari and others all used Microsoft 8K Basic.

The idea to license most likely came from Xerox which never sold a copier until the late 1980s. In the early years of microcomputers Xerox was at the leading edge with products that were ten years ahead of everyone else. If the upper management had had even a trace of a clue we would all be using Xerox software instead of Microsoft. Not sure if that would have been any better but is is unlikely that it would have been worse. The original Alto system followed by the Star were pretty nice machines with full page hi res graphics displays, a multitasking windows system with optical mouse, touch pad, extended keyboard, hard drives and Ethernet when the rest of the pack including IBM had machines no more powerful than some of my wristwatches.

Xerox just let all the ideas they developed slip away even though they had patents on most. They even had a very advanced mainframe series that they purchased from a startup in the early 70s called Sigma Systems. They managed to run that into the ground also. They invented the laser diode and let that escape too. The list of inventions includes most of the parts used in a computer with the important exception of the microprocessor. They also invented e-ink which is used in E-readers and let that slip out as well. I worked for them that entire time period from 1975 to 1998 and it made me want to bang my head on a wall at the number of significant advances that they never brought to market.

I had a very complete tour of Xerox PARC around 1979 and saw things that others weren't even dreaming about. In one lab they had a fully functional colour laser printer running. They had a couple of hundred stand alone microcomputers in the centre all networked together on Ethernet which they invented. When they were idle they displayed a rotating 3D globe of the earth as a screen saver.