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Guest aquastealth

Great Product Ideas! How To Make Em Come Real!

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My company works with independent inventors from time to time and some of our best sellers are results of collaborations with these outside sources. The Airgrip laser level for example was an invention that was initially presented to us as a material support invention that used vacuums. We felt that the material support idea was not as strong but saw some merit in using it in small laser products. The product that the inventor pitched to us would have been a low volume niche product, but the product that we developed was a mass market hit- something that the inventor probably had not thought of. It is likely would not have come up with that idea if the inventor had not sparked a train of thought. In fact the inventor received a royalty of all the products that were sold for that reason. Both of us profited from the venture.

 

In my observations about what works in real life- the most important thing to have is a prototype. The successful inventors that sell their ideas all have prototypes. Ideas are cheap. Most marketers are looking for easy to implement solutions that are immediately viable. A prototype evaluates the idea/sketch and shows the development team that you have sorted through a lot of the issues. Why should the companies have to pay you royalties if they are the ones who have to design and implement your sketch.

 

So- if I had a choice between a prototype and a patent I would go for the prototype. Most large companies in fact will want to do things right because if you can demonstrate that their product apes your prototype then you can probably cause a lot more trouble than most companies are willing to go through. Procuring a patent also means that the company does not have to worry about competition implementing the solution that you are selling them.

 

The problem is as noted before that in all likelihood someone is thinking of the same solutions and is implementing those ideas. This is where dated sketches can be important in determining the validity of someone ripping you off. Have a witness sign a dated sketch and keep it in your records. There is a certain amount of risk in showing a work to clients, but really you want to make it as easy for them to do business with you.

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Guest newt @ MWE
The last thing is dont put it online. If a sketch makes it into a forum, your online portfolio, or in an article, it becomes public knowledge and noone has a right to persue a patent on it.

 

This is another very common misconception. You actually have one year from the date of first publication to apply for a patent.

 

 

Hey

 

Just as a side bar, I believe you need to file a provisional patent, much much cheaper, to protect the idea for a year. While it's not permanent, it does give you the years head start.

 

Also, I agree totally, "the poor man's patent" is still only as good as the money behind it.

 

newt

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Guest csven

As I understand them, provisional patents cannot be fixed and turned into a more rigorous utility patent. Thus, once you submit a provisional, you're more or less stuck with the claims. Consequently, if you don't pay a lawyer up front to ensure you're well-protected, you may not get that chance later (aside from perhaps taking out additional and separate patent claims to augment it).

 

I could very easily be mistaken, but before going with a provisional, be very sure you understand the full ramifications of doing so.

 

(btw, I prefer avoiding the patent system altogether. fwiw, I have no interest in paying money to defend a patent and would rather find other ways to capitalize on an idea.)

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Guest rjansen

FYI additional provisional patent information, i am also a student and upon completing a recent industrial design class project and wanting to submit it to a couple of design competitions, my professors and as well as my professional industrial design adviser's thought that I should get a provisional patent. Luckily I did because know after a couple of recent awards I know have companies interested in the product and I am protected for up to a year,

and currently looking into patent lawyers to make it into a full patent and the cost for the provisional patent out of my pocket was only $105. After talking with lawyers and patent attorneys i was told that in the provisional patent as much information and specifics, drawings (following certain requirement) is best and is logged into the USPTO giving your idea a date and a patent pending number. Following this when you or if you decide to pursue a full patent, you and your patent lawyer can at any time change (tweak) any information to your provisional patent (as long as you are not taking any ideas that are already patented Obviously) full your full patent. and as far as not being able to take a provisional patent to a full utility patent...you can! hope this helped even if its not much. ps i just got done going through the provisional patent process and from start to patent pending number took around 10 business days.

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Guest jjdon

I'm fairly new on this forum - certainly my first posting (Hi all!). My field is jewelry and I dabble in other things as needed, too. Our issues aren't patents, they are copyrights. In any case, nobody has pointed out an essential thing about your hypothetical new product, and that is that it may not be patentable at all. Those more experienced know more about it than I, as does the patent office itself, but if you have a new design on an old product - a floor mop that swoops left instead of right or some such - you may get rich off of it because people love it, but it won't be patentable to begin with - it's a twist on an existing thing. If it's a truly new vacuum cleaner, then maybe you can (Dyson, for instance). If it's a lovely aerodynamic casing around Hoover guts, then you can't.

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Guest michaelAtSPG

Having gone through this process once (with professional help) I can say that I *wish* someone had told me about this book:

 

"Patent It Yourself", by Pressman

 

Sounds cheesy, but it is not. It has very accurate information about the process, the actors, and the requirements. Every person I know who has read this has given it the thumbs up. (feel free to complain to me if you don't agree!)

 

The Provision Patent Application (discussed above, which btw is not an actual "provisional patent") is great but has a few disadvantages, the biggest of which is that you must file the regular patent application within 1 year if you are going to get the benefit of the PPA (namely an earlier date for your patent submission). The PPA must also completely describe the invention, i.e. no major revisions in the regular patent application, or the PPAs date no longer applies.

 

By the way, the Provision Patent Application only applies to utility patents, NOT design patents.

 

Most of the benefits of the PPA can be gotten just by having a well-documented, witnessed & signed record of your invention & its testing/prototyping. (Without having to pay the $500 PPA fee, nor have a complete application w/ disclosure).

 

About the "post office patent" technique (mailing yourself your idea/sketch): this book says "tantamount to worthless".

I'd be inclined to err on the side of caution with this technique.

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Guest michaelAtSPG
... that is that it may not be patentable at all. ...

 

For something to be patentable (utility patent here), it has to fulfill 4 requirements:

 

1) it has to be a machine, process, manufactured item, composition or new use of these things.

2) it has to be useful (not aesthetic. but any use will do)

3) it has to be new (i.e. different from all previous inventions)

4) it has to be non-obvious (i.e. difference from prior art/inventions must be substantial)

 

That's it. Though some things you cannot patent no matter what. e.g. "whimsical"

or "immoral" inventions (no i'm not kidding, one want to ask by what measure, but

anyway...), inventions useful only for illegal purposes, nonoperable inventions,

theoretical inventions, and nuclear weapons. (For these last items you can apply to the DOE).

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Guest csven
you and your patent lawyer can at any time change (tweak) any information to your provisional patent (as long as you are not taking any ideas that are already patented Obviously) full your full patent. and as far as not being able to take a provisional patent to a full utility patent...you can!
The PPA must also completely describe the invention, i.e. no major revisions in the regular patent application, or the PPAs date no longer applies.

Thanks for confirming my earlier thought regarding getting the utility patent after filing the temporary provisional: "As I understand them, provisional patents cannot be fixed and turned into a more rigorous utility patent. Thus, once you submit a provisional, you're more or less stuck with the claims."

 

And appreciate the book recommendation, Michael. While I've avoided them, a good book on patents is always of use. Thanks.

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Guest jjdon

>Second, copy your sketches, and mail them to yourself in a sealed envelope and keep the envelope sealed. Now you have a government notarized date that is fully admissible legally because of the date stamp from the post office. This establishes that the idea was originated by you.

 

This portion came a while back on this thread, and it's come up on other forums I'm on, too. Just browsing around on a slow afternoon..... The above statement is probably as far from the truth as can be - it is the proverbial old wive's tale. You can mail yourself ANY envelope and later put ANY document into it that you like, and don't ever think the legal system doesn't know it. It's not admissible at all, according to people who've been there before. Maybe in the 1890's you could do that, but not today. You may think you're doing something and feeling secure, you're actually doing nothing. If you want a date stamp, use a notary - even that's not ironclad.

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Guest Joe McGlynn

Hey Folks,

 

Interesting discussion. I've had a little experience with this.

 

First, on protecting your designs:

 

The "mail it to your self" bit is worthless, don't count on that for anything.

 

There are two kinds of patents, a design patent and a utility patent. If you're patenting a function that is novel then you're talking about a utility patent. Otherwise it is a design patent. A cool looking espresso machine? Design patent. An espresso machine that is powered by a nordic trak? Pprobably a utility patent. Obviously a product could be protected by both.

 

Once a design is "out there" you have a year to file a patent application.

 

If you have a patent you *may* have a defensible position if someone takes advantage of your design. BUT you still need to hire a lawyer and be ready to spend at least $100,000 on legal fees to defend your rights. I'm not making that up, I've had some of my products directly copied and been through the details with a pretty sharp IP attorney.

 

Historically the courts have provided some protection under "Trade Dress", when you have something that is recognizable by the public as your product and it's copied. According to my lawyer the courts have been reducing the effectiveness of this protection in the past few years.

 

From a completely different viewpoint, if you're intent is too see your product become real there are a number of avenues available. My approach was to start a company and manufacture and market the products myself. I could go on for a while about that, it's been interesting and fun.

 

Joe

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Guest michaelAtSPG

Actually, there are 3 types of patents: in addition to design and utility patents, there are also plant patents.

 

A patent is only useful as an "offensive" legal tool: it gives you the ability to legally persue those

who infringe on your patent. It does not prevent others from suing you for infringing on theirs.

 

I'm adding here, since I've posted a few times on this, that I am by no means a legal authority,

lawyer, or anything else of that nature! I'm just quoting from a few books and from experience

having gone through the process (once with a law firm's help, and currently without).

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Guest superbad

I always marvel at people who think time stamps or self-addressed envelopes mean anything at all. What are you going to prove, and to whom? That you had an idea first? Nobody cares. Simply having an idea first does not give you any rights to anything. That's why they invented patents. Patent infringement is a statutory wrong, governed by laws. "He stole my idea" is not a statutory wrong, and is not governed by any laws. The bad news is, you can't afford to defend a patent, and unless you have a patent on something like Viagra, the payoff will be minimal anyway. Coatracks and cutting boards are not multi-million dollar products. The good news is, in all likelihood nobody wants to steal your idea anyway. Don't worry about it.

 

In almost all cases, the most you should bother with is to require a signed NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before you show your idea around to someone you don't know. You're still going to have to spend 50 grand to prove in court that someone violated an NDA, so that's out, but anyone who refuses to sign one is someone you don't want to deal with. It's a basic test of character.

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Guest jjdon

>Coatracks and cutting boards are not multi-million dollar products.

 

I always laugh-----"I have a design, and I want to protect it". Nothing wrong with that. I had 12 designs last week, 6 the week before, and around 250 last year. That's what designers do, is design stuff. If it's something major or truly unique that's going to revolutionize the world, that's one thing, but almost all of it isn't that.

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Great post.

 

Ideas are great, but we must becareful not to get carried away. The reality are ideas are dime a dozen, execution here is the key. I recently wrote a post here that describes this issue:

 

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.)

 

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

 

Explanation:

 

AWFUL IDEA = -1

WEAK IDEA = 1

SO-SO IDEA = 5

GOOD IDEA = 10

GREAT IDEA = 15

BRILLIANT IDEA = 20

 

NO EXECUTION = $1

WEAK EXECUTION = $1000

SO-SO- EXECUTION = $10,000

GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000

GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000

BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000

 

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

 

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.

The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

 

That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas.

I’m not interested until I see their execution.

 

So now we have that frame of mind, we need to look at what we want to do with this patent.

 

This is a multi-fold discussions with many considerations.

 

The Intellectual Property Protection Myth

 

Personally for me I have long given up on this IP nonsense. If your entire business plan is backed by an IP you got a problem. It takes only about a 10% modification of a design to over come an IP protection. Put it this way if you really wanted to take the effort to copy something its not really that difficult.

 

The reality is an IP only has specific coverage, and if your technology has value and multiple applications then by all means protect it and sell it. IP is a sink hole of funds, but if you can farm it out for royalties then go for it!

 

The real rules of the Game

 

The reality of things are a successful content (music, product, object etc.) is more than IP. It is a well oiled engine of branding, design language, technology, manufacturing, and marketing. All added together makes it a hard act to follow.

 

Just look at Apple? Their products not only push the edge of design minimalism, but their part construction is flawless and extremely difficult to replicate without specific technology. Furthermore any vendor that steps out of line with Apple will never survive due to their brand equity walking out of the door.

 

At the end of the day, my view is copy all you want, but you ain’t getting into the infrastructure I have created.

IP and Creatives

 

From a designer’s stand point, content creation NOT content protection will becomes even more and more important. It will also become a discussion of the difference between amateur and professionals. I coined the term Hyper-creative and that will be what design professionals need to become in this new product development era ruled by digital media and the Internet.

 

I digress

 

Anyways back to the issue at hand. You will be surprised to know that many, i say MANY products out today actually infringe patents. Check out this link that describes the Muji award winners infringing patents and you can see how easy this can happen. The reality of a patent is:

To get a patent, the invention has to meet three basic criteria - novelty (is it new), utility (does it have a use) and nonobviousness. This last one catches many wannabee inventions.

 

So you see patents are funny business. There are a lot more to it and you need to ask yourself is this really is what you want to do? Also another misconception is copyrights were meant for written work, NOT designs. You might like to investigate a design patent instead, where the outlook of a product is protected (not its function).

 

The acid test is simple, if a consumer mistakes a copied design for your product then this is considered an infringement. This in many cases is better for us designers as patents were meant more for inventions than forms.

 

Best of luck!

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