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  • Patents

    Greetings from Dixie. Could some of you give me the lowdown on the patent process along with things to watch out for.

    Thanks Keith

  • #2

    A little bitty question like what to know about patents and caveats to same hardly takes any time to answer at length on the computer keyboard.

    Here's my shot at it.


    • #3
      to watch out for....

      EVERYONE wants to charge big money: to help you get it, protect it, review it, etc.

      The smarter you get about it, the less you might end up paying. The better your application will be.

      Go through the whole deal - as if though you were going to file it and had to defend it yourself. Learn the business. Get David Pressman's book - Patent it Yourself.

      Understand how to protect and defend your work on a real budget. Surreal amounts of money can get spent on Patents/infringement issues. Your knowledge is the key to keeping the cost down.

      After you have it all together, then you might consider speaking to an attorney - if it merits it. A trusted family attorney, acting as advisor, might be able to suggest someone.

      There is serious art in filing, defending, and infringement issues. Learn from the master patent filers, if you can. This does not have to cost.

      Forrest is right on. Google this one to death and ignore the adds.



      • #4
        Having spent 25 years in R&D with a focus on developing proprietary technology I have lots of patent experience. In addition to managing patent filings from a large group of researchers, I personally have 14 patents. The first and most important fact to understand is that even large experienced organizations that file many patents rarely file one that really pays off. And when it does it is not immediate - often the payoff comes near the end of the patents life. So filing a patent is a long term bet that does not usually pay. When it does pay it pays well. For the inexperienced, the odds are very long indeed.
        Most of the patents I have seen that are filed by individuals are design patents that are very narrow in scope. Even if the widget that is covered becomes important, they are vulnerable to alternate designs that achieve the same function. On the other hand, if you want to think of the patent as a lottery ticket, with about the same odds, then at least you will have made an informed choice.


        • #5
          One of the first things you'll learn about patents is that they give you nothing more than a right to sue if you discover someone steals your idea. Noone will be out there keeping an eye on the business world for idea thefts.

          A company that wants to use your idea might buy your patent rights, but they have a 50/50 chance of winning a suit for a single patent on one device if both parties have similar funds for legal fees. If you have "regular people" money, their odds of winning improve greatly. Guess what is the smaller investment for them to steal your idea.

          Your odds improve if you have multiple patents on one device, so a company that wants your idea will be a bit more likely to pay you for it than to pay their attorneys.


          • #6
            The entire patent process in the US has been perverted far from the original intent. This has been discussed before but bears repeating. The US patent office no longer does any meaningful prior art searching or qualification before issuing a patent. You can now patent just about anything you want.

            See here: Click here

            The idea of patenting "look and feel" of software, games, video displays etc. is ludicrous. You can only show a spreadsheet one way.

            The idea of patenting software algorithyms is perhaps a little less stupid but I still have a problem with it. I think copyright is a more appropriate legal protection for software and it costs nothing as copyright exists at the time of creation with no need to register.

            Due to the current stupidity being perpetrated by the patent office companies are spring up who's entire business model is based on filing questionable patents, some by outright fraud and then finding well heeled victims to extort money from using the courts to help them. A good example is Rambus.

            I wouldn't bother trying to patent something I invented. If someone with little means tries to steal your invention you have little to be concerned about. If someone with deep pockets wants it they will simply take it and there is nothing you can afford to do.

            Alternatives are copyright when applicable, much easier to enforce, trademark, industrial design patent and trade secret.
            Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


            • #7
              You might find this recent thread interesting.



              • #8
                All you need is this book....explains it all. Benefited me back in 1987. Porter Cable now owns my patent.



                • #9
                  You should visit Don Lancaster's web site ( ) , and the links there in.
                  Lancaster is an author/inventer. He offere advise on technology and is a great debunker of phyiscally impossible schemes ( for a more general overview of his interest see ( ).
                  The first link above is to his web page that is dedicated to discouraging small time inventors from wasting time and money on patents. He let his bias show, but his arguments seem strong.



                  • #10
                    One example of how the US patent office has gone nuts (really the US courts) is the decision to allow the patenting of business methods. It has been decided in the US that if you have a method of carrying out your business that involves the use of computer equipment then you can patent it. You can't patent it if it doesn't use a computer. I'm not talking about a specialized computer program here, just the method of producing the result. The result can simply be an outcome, such as increasing productivity. Say for example you have an efficiency expert wandering around taking notes on a pad of paper: Business method, not patentable. Same guy taking notes with his laptop: Patentable.

                    This has repercussions that are not immediately obvious. If your company has been carring out business in a particular way for years and have kept the method secret (a trade secret) and someone else patents that method you may suddenly find yourself in the position of having to license the method from them so you can continue carrying out business the same way you always have. Absurd! This can be something as simple as how you bill your customers. An example of a ridiclous business method patent is the "one click" to buy it now patent.

                    BTW, I'm not expressing my own opinion here. The US is about the only jurisdiction that allows the patenting of business methods. Other patent offices such as in the UK think it is downright stupid. There is currently a rush on in the US to computerize every possible way of doing business and then patenting it.

                    Another stupidity is the granting of patents on computer programs. A computer program is simply a series of logical steps whereby the output is determined by the input. In many cases if you wish to accomplish a particular function with a particular result in a computer program you have little or no choice how you do it. If somebody else has a patent on the procedure then you either can't do that or you have to licence it from them. That has a huge negative impact on software development.

                    Again, the US is the only place you can patent a computer program. These imbecilic decisions in case law and by the PTO are in part responsible for the economic problems in the USA.

                    See here for some interesting perspective on this and some excellent quotes:

                    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                    • #11
                      you put it right !
                      The proceedures today are bent to employ lawyers, and lawyers, and I dare say Lawyers again. If you think that is illogical, you only need to talk to a lawyer to see how important it is that "your" legal rights are protected and his pockets are kept full.

                      For those of you that have a "winning" idea,
                      realise that even a "Real" winner may not make money. A friend of mine invented such a was a phenominal creative tool to manufacture a product now in existance.
                      His concept (which I partially built in my shop)made a product with half the raw material needed yet doubled the strenth, but it affected the "size" and the "Industry Trade Group" would not buy into it because it would mean retooling the entire industry AND creating new standards, and they would not allow its use. A winner that lost..
                      To put it in Computer terms
                      I have a hard drive that is half the size , stores twice as much, is twice as fast and costs less to build.....but it won't meet current (read obsolete) standards...

                      The way he figures , when the patent runs out for this unigue concept..someone will pick up the idea and run with it


                      • #12
                        D. Thomas

                        How did you go about marketing your patent to Porter Cable? Did you just call up and ask for the head of engineering?


                        • #13
                          Many thanks to all who replied. So much to ponder, so little time.


                          • #14
                            canonicalman, Porter Cable came to me, not I to them. Which is probably the way most sucessful products are bought by larger go ahead and make/market the product yourself for a few years, and if it shows some sucess in the marketplace the 'big boys' come to you !

                            Porter Cable ordered more castings at the foundry with their first Omnijig order, than I had ordered in three years of making the things !

                            And no, that's not me in the instructional video, but an instructor and "router enthusast" from Greensboro, NC I found for them