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  • Patent advice?

    I need some advice, and I know there's a few here that have been down this path before so here goes.

    I've started making some Golf putters as a little bit of a side gig, and a way to combine some hobbies. It started off well intentioned, I simply just wanted to make nice things, and have a bit of a creative outlet. But I've stumbled into a manufacturing method that I think might be patentable. I've been searching for the past few months through hundreds of patents and thus far haven't found anything the same. As simple as it is, and as much as the golf world is littered with patents for such silly things I'm surprised it hasn't been done before. I'm certainly not thinking I discovered plutonium here, and it's not a million dollar idea that will revolutionize the game either. To be honest is a pretty laborious method, and the benefits to playability debatable. It's more about uniqueness and exclusivity, and that's a big part of the market I want to go after, rather than the latest wiz bang tech that will remarkably improve your game......I'm not claiming that at all.

    My interest in the patent side of it is purely because I want to keep making them this way, and not run afoul of litigation from someone else (there's a few bullies in this genre.....). I just really don't want to make 20 or more of these things, and then get hit with a lawsuit by some sue happy company that wants to bully a little garage guy around.

    I guess what I'm asking is simply for some advice. During my research, a patent to protect my idea could run upwards of $15-20k (if it's patentable). I honestly don't think I'd be able to sell enough putters to recoup that, nor do I really want this to turn into a full time gig to try and do so. Prior art searches, could run up to around 5k. Again, same problem. Where does that leave me, what other options do I have? What are some real world situations I could run into by manufacturing something that somebody else may have a patent on but I just haven't found yet.

    Perhaps I'm massively overthinking this too, and I should just drive on and play dumb?

    Thanks in advance, Dan.

  • #2
    No, you are not being silly. Everything you said is on track.

    You need to decide what to do. Is it worth the money?

    Now, a patent, ANY patent, is reasonably proof against casual claims of infringement by others on THAT THING..... It wll cost an opponent about $2 million to contest your patent. Not everyone wants to do that. Not even the patent trolls.

    That all said, I'd rather have a copyright or a trademark than a stack of patents. They are far easier to defend, less costly to get, etc. But you can still get sued for whatever the product is, and you have no patent to protect you.
    CNC machines only go through the motions.

    Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
    Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
    Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
    I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
    Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi,

      Patents are only worth the money you have to spend on lawyers anymore. So for us small fry, that's not much. But you can apply for one for sure. It can have value for bragging rights and as a piece of paper you can wave around to maybe scare someone who can't afford lawyers. But beyond that, if a larger entity, like say PING wants to use your idea, you can't stop them financially. At most a mere tweak to your idea is enough to sink your boat.

      Sell the idea to someone who can use it or make as much money from as you can until you get noticed and copied. And then move on to the next idea.
      If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.

      Comment


      • #4
        There are different types of patents. ( I am not a patent attorney so do your own research )

        Most commonly known is a utility patent. This is typically a unique feature or process that is truly innovative.

        Then there is the design patent. Its short term, and basically is about look and feel.

        The most common for inventors hoping to license a product to somebody with deep pockets is a provisional patent. Its basically a short term patent to allow you to raise funds, attract investors, and do a little test marketing to see if its worth the effort for a full patent.

        There are variations, but that should give you a place to start.

        DO NOT CONFUSE patent, trademark, & copyright. I see it all the time in the tackle industry. They are totally different things.
        *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

        Comment


        • #5
          I am a bit confused. Is your idea the manufacturing method, or the product produced? If it is the manufacturing method, how would anyone know how you make the putter unless they visit your shop. In this case you keep the process a trade secret.
          Only reason to patent a manufacturing process is if you think you can sell the process to someone. But a patent discloses the secret sauce of the process, and how would you ever know if someone took the formula and started using it in their factory behind closed doors?

          Comment


          • #6
            Provisional Patent. Look it up on google, and you can go to the US Patent Office and do your own searches, no cost. I had two of them filed, but no sale. Lots of BS here and online so do your own research. Frankly I would not bother with it.

            https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-r...-you-need-know
            Last edited by wmgeorge; 05-07-2021, 02:12 PM.
            Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician

            Comment


            • #7
              I have 4 patents and the first cost me $12K and was so poorly done by a rip-off attorney that the patent office allowed me to refile and get an extension. This fact was pointed out by my second attorney that did 2 more patents at about $3500 each. The most important aspect of a good defendable patent is that it be non-obvious to someone skilled in the art to which it applies. My second patent was turned down as being similar to prior art and I was happy about that because the examiners didn’t understand how it worked. We finally got them to look at photos off the record and once they understood it was granted.

              I lost my patent rights on my last patent because of the new “maintenance fee” BS. The first $500 fee came due while I was between jobs and I couldn’t afford to pay it. Those fees mean little guys are faced with use it or lose it. You can’t afford to have lots of patents unless you are making money off of them.

              I suggest you look for the book titled “Patent it yourself” which I think has been updated and reprinted. It was very valuable in understanding patents and would have kept me from getting screwed on my first.

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              • #8
                Unless your manufacturing method is something that you're looking to sell to other manufacturers and collect royalties from my suggestion would to be keep it as a trade secret. Otherwise you'll be using revenue to pay for a patent that's only as good as the money you're willing to spend having lawyers defend it if a large company decides to grind you down.

                The problem with a patent for some things (manufacturing methods, food and chemical products) is that to have an effective patent you need to reveal enough information that it can be copied. That allows a competitor to take your method, find a loophole, and exploit it. With a trade secret you don't reveal anything, you restrict who knows the secret and has access to the shop, and it makes the reverse engineering much harder to do. Most trade secrets get revealed by disgruntled ex-employees or greedy employees, but I think that's something you should be able to keep in check in your operation...
                Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tom S View Post
                  Unless your manufacturing method is something that you're looking to sell to other manufacturers and collect royalties from my suggestion would to be keep it as a trade secret. Otherwise you'll be using revenue to pay for a patent that's only as good as the money you're willing to spend having lawyers defend it if a large company decides to grind you down.

                  The problem with a patent for some things (manufacturing methods, food and chemical products) is that to have an effective patent you need to reveal enough information that it can be copied. That allows a competitor to take your method, find a loophole, and exploit it. With a trade secret you don't reveal anything, .............
                  That, definitely.

                  With a Copyright, it is an easy job to see if something is an infringement. Look at the two things.... assuming they are literary (written) or artistic. Artists often win those lawsuits, and as we know, artists are not exactly deep pocket people in general.

                  Trademarks fall in between. You normally cannot start out by getting one, but you can do so as soon as you identify a product with it and put the product on the market in any significant way.

                  Any of the three must be defended, you have to notify anyone found to be infringing, and issue them a cease and desist. If they persist, then you go to court. Much more expensive with patent, because the company will attack the validity of the patent, and cost you literally millions.

                  Funny story:
                  A guy I worked with deliberately infringed on a patent with a product he made as a side gig.... he got a letter. But, he sent back a letter mentioning exactly where an identical system was fully described in a trade magazine 20 years before the date of their patent. Obviously their patent was "anticipated", and thus completely invalid from the word "go". They stopped bothering him, presumably not wanting to open that can of worms. They still sell the product, and hold the patent, which has now expired. They probably sent others the same sort of letter, and those others did not know about the article, so those folks had to stop..
                  CNC machines only go through the motions.

                  Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
                  Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
                  Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
                  I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
                  Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks Jerry. I don't think it's worth the money TBH, but I don't want to sell 20 of them and then have to pay somebody a couple grand because I infringed on their patent they filed 20 years ago, but never did anything with. Some of the golf patents are so silly and vague I'd be surprised if anybody ever even made them. Seems like some are just lawsuit bait from someone hoping for a payday from a big company for doing nothing.

                    Dale, I've read that same sentiment many times before.

                    Originally posted by Erich View Post
                    I am a bit confused. Is your idea the manufacturing method, or the product produced? If it is the manufacturing method, how would anyone know how you make the putter unless they visit your shop. In this case you keep the process a trade secret.
                    Only reason to patent a manufacturing process is if you think you can sell the process to someone. But a patent discloses the secret sauce of the process, and how would you ever know if someone took the formula and started using it in their factory behind closed doors?
                    It's honestly a bit of both. It's kind of a cross between a design and utility, which makes ME even more confused also lol.

                    Part of me says not to worry about it and just carry on, but there's a small part of me that's always wanted my own patent. No doubt a bit ego driven of course, but at the same time I want to protect myself. Who knows, a prior art search could reveal it's been done before and it's all for naught. But I would like to learn more about the process do's and dont's. The cheapest way possible of course .

                    I'll look into the provisional patent, thanks George

                    Tanks for the book recommendation Gary, I'll check that out too.

                    Bob, thanks for the info. Funny enough I'm in sort of the same situation with a lure family design idea in the tackle industry too, but I just decided to shelf that whole idea until a later date. I haven't really gone down the rabbit hole of searching for patents there yet, but I imagine the tackle industry is much like the golf industry. I'd be surprised there also if nobody has ever patented it, but I haven't even tried to search for anything yet. I have no desire to try and manufacture this one though, I'd rather just make and test some prototypes and see if lucky strike up the road would take it from there if there was interest. Never know. More fishing lures are designed to catch fisherman, and I think these would catch quite a few lol.

                    I'm curious about it all, not from the standpoint of inventing the next big thing, I just like coming up with different ways of doing things, not copying anyone else, and not running afoul of someone who's already done it that I may not know about. Again, perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but until I started searching patents I didn't realize just how many silly little ideas in the golf world were patentable, and I honestly just don't want to step on anybody's toes and fall into a lawsuit. I stumbled into the patent side, researching usga conformity, and from there everything just snowballed. I've got a prototype made, and would love to start making more to try and sell, but am at a crossroads. This has been on the back burner for a few months now, and it's time to **** or get off the pot. Analysis paralysis and at this point I've got more time and effort into research than I do machining and programming lol.

                    Here's the front side, nothing new or all that special here, all the hoopla is in the back.

                    It does putt nice though. Would be nice to try it out on the course, but we're still under lockdown here. 🤬

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Bob LaLonde mentioned "Design patents". Those are a super good way for something like what you show. (Even though you wisely did not actually show it). Yes, "look and feel" type stuff.

                      You could get one of those, and have protection against copies.

                      If it was a weight distribution thing, that your shape etc does, that would not stop anyone from putting something heavy in the spot you have your "fat spot" on the back (if that were actually the issue), so long as their club does not look like yours. You get the idea here, the idea is not protected, the appearance is.

                      But with a distinctive appearance, you have something to sell, and it is easy to sell against one that does not look like it ("It's not the same thing at all").
                      CNC machines only go through the motions.

                      Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
                      Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
                      Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
                      I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
                      Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tom S View Post
                        Unless your manufacturing method is something that you're looking to sell to other manufacturers and collect royalties from my suggestion would to be keep it as a trade secret. Otherwise you'll be using revenue to pay for a patent that's only as good as the money you're willing to spend having lawyers defend it if a large company decides to grind you down.

                        The problem with a patent for some things (manufacturing methods, food and chemical products) is that to have an effective patent you need to reveal enough information that it can be copied. That allows a competitor to take your method, find a loophole, and exploit it. With a trade secret you don't reveal anything, you restrict who knows the secret and has access to the shop, and it makes the reverse engineering much harder to do. Most trade secrets get revealed by disgruntled ex-employees or greedy employees, but I think that's something you should be able to keep in check in your operation...
                        Thanks. Perhaps I'm just thinking like the group here. One look at the backside, and this group would figure out what I did and how I did it, but to the average golfer looking to add a custom milled putter in their bag, they would have no idea, it would look cool and different, and I could put some buzzword spins on the tech. Industry pros would also figure it out quickly, which leads me to honestly believe that it's probably been done before, but I haven't found any mention of the process in all the hundreds of patents I've searched. I've also looked at thousands of custom putter designs and never seen a similar one. Who knows if I'm even searching patents correctly either. I'll be the first to admit I can be a bit of a complete Rube sometimes when I'm out of my element.

                        I don't think it's a mass marketable manufacturing method either as it's laborious, and would cut into margins heavily. Best kept to the niche custom milled putter genre, where it's something unique and aesthetically pleasing.

                        I figured this group would be a great place to debate the issue . A few have been down this road before, and even more love a good debate

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                        • #13
                          If your fear is of getting sued, maybe just limiting your exposure might be enough to make you comfortable with going forward with this. It's easy and cheap to put together a limited liability company in the states and there's probably something similar in Canada. A few second hand machines in a home shop isn't going to look like much of a reward to most lawyers.
                          George
                          Traverse City, MI

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                          • #14
                            how about if you're completely open about how you do it and post the process on here - would that count as prior art if someone else tried to patent the same process?

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                            • #15
                              Hello... YES you can go to the patent office yourself and do online searches, and document what you find. If you publish it here, it can not be patented.
                              Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician

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