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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-12-2007, 05:51 AM Thread Starter
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patents(?)

hi all

i am half-seriously considering a patent for a piece of aquarium equipment that i seem to have invented. does anybody have any experience with the application? it seems to be quite pricey--a mimimum of $500 for the most basic app., another $1000 for the USPTO search and about the same again in lawyer's fees.

it's hard to imagine that i could ever recover this amount with sale of the item, but i think that i should consider it some more. any thoughts, experiences or suggestions at all would be really great.

thanks

-D
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-12-2007, 12:38 PM
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And they are currently running 6-7 years behind in issuing patents.
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-12-2007, 12:49 PM
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patents are only as good as your willingness to enforce them with your own lawyers. basically anyone can copy anything until you sue them, injunct them, and get awarded compensation, which can take years.

if you believe in your product, you are much better off simply producing it as best and cheaply as possible and marketing it vigorously rather than wasting your time with patent protection.

or you can simply find an existing product manufacturer to gain an interest in your idea, and pay you in either a one time fee, or percentage of sales.

funny story happened to me; I came up with a handy and unique office product - computer accessory idea in the USA about 15 years ago. I time stamped notarized documentation on it, but I never pursued it. 5 years later I found someone else in Canada had also come up with the same idea and came to market with a product. so had I a patent pending on it, I could not have enforced my patent application Internationally. the product barely sold for maybe a year or two, then disappeared from the market forever. needless to say, I'm glad I didn't bother.

funny story happened to a friend: He came up with a disposable fiber optic tool which he did in fact get patented after several years, more as a hobby than a certainty he would produce it. An international corporate tool maker came out with a modified design that would have cost my friend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pursue in court, and he could not find an attorney to represent him without him paying lawyers fees because his case was so weak. now all my friend has for his trouble is a link to the internet sight that hosts his patented idea. he looks at it weekly and dreams of what could have been.

another funny story happened to a friend; My friend purchased the already Trade Marked name of an old liquidated company for use with his own company, so he had the legal right to use this name. later he discovered another company in the USA took the same name without legal rights to it. he took them to court and the judge decided that since both companies had geographically distinct markets, there would be no confusion between them when marketing to their customers. so basically my friend paid for the name, that other guy didn't, yet he still got to keep the name, and both companies wasted thousands of dollars in lawyers fees for nothing.

one last thing to keep in mind. patent applications involve a patent search, which means that your idea may have already been submitted by another person or company, and they have reserved the right to produce it. so don't think that just because there is no product yet matching your idea, that someone else has not already applied for it. IBM for example, has a Million patents on ideas they will never use, yet if someone else wants to, IBM wants to get paid, and has an army of Lawyers to make sure they do.

To get a patent pending costs $5,000-$10,000 depending on how well it's documented for the Lawyers, and how specific or vague your idea may be.


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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-12-2007, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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thanks! i won't bother with the patent application. it should be no surprise at all that they make it really difficult for the little guy. the USPTO Website also indicated that simple patent renewal costs another several thousand dollars every few years. i mean no offense to any lawyers who might be reading, but i would really prefer to avoid lawyers if i can.

it sounds like a much better tack will be to approach a manufacturer/distributor of aquarium products who i think i can trust.

if anybody else has any experience with developing aquarium-related products i would be really grateful for any other observations.

-D
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-12-2007, 06:13 PM
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You should definitely get a patent. You never know how big it could get...
There is an online patent website that helps you with this process. It was recently featured on NPR. Google it or check out NPR's website. No lawyers, I don't think. What they do is check existing patents to see if your idea is new and they get a bunch on experts on the field to see if it's viable and they'll work out some deal with you. They can turn you down however.

Yes, it's a pain to sue a company for ripping you off but if the product is worth millions in sales, wouldn't it worth suing for years? And you'll get the residuals for their product that they produced.

eh, it couldn't hurt.


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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 02:34 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mistergreen View Post
There is an online patent website that helps you with this process. It was recently featured on NPR. Google it or check out NPR's website. ........Yes, it's a pain to sue a company for ripping you off but if the product is worth millions in sales, wouldn't it worth suing for years? And you'll get the residuals for their product that they produced.

eh, it couldn't hurt.
i'm damned if i do and i'm damned if i don't. i can't tell the future, so how can i know if the idea will become popular and turn into a product that people will buy(?). i don't intend to make aa bunch of money (and i don't think this thing ever could), but i also don't want some big company like Tetra or somebody like that to make off with the technology and turn it into their own product; that's really what i want to avoid. i have been more than a year now figuring this thing out.

can you remember more about that NPR story? i tried Googling with a few different terms, but turned up nothing.

thanks again everybody

-Devin
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 03:22 AM Thread Starter
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hey check this out:

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/provapp.htm

a "provisional patent" offers "patent pending" protection for twelve months. i found links to a fewt patent law firms who claim they can get one filed for just ~$200. i imagine that one can't safely start to actually develop the product during that one-year period, but it would offer some protection so that you can talk about your idea with less risk of geting it stolen.

what do you all think of this?
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 04:06 AM
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I hold ten U.S. patents, but my employer owns them and paid all the fees. 'can't really give you much guidance on how to do it yourself.

If you do decide to approach a manufacturer, be sure to protect your rights and don't tell them anything without getting a signed Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) first. Otherwise, if you tell them your idea, there's absolutely nothing stopping them from using it themselves, and they wouldn't be required to give you one dime in compensation. 'happens all the time.

And there's no way getting around the use of lawyers. Patents and NDA's are legal instruments.

Oh, and I'd be very leery of any outfit that says they'll do a "patent search" for $1000 for you. 'smells like "scam". First off, anyone can search the database of U.S. patents online themselves at the USPTO website. Secondly, the issue isn't whether anyone has filed a patent on your invention; the issue is "prior art"; i.e., were you really the first one to invent this thing? The question is does the invention exist already, whether or not anyone bothered to file a patent on it. Is it already available on the market?

The patent attorney's I work with tell me the inventors are usually the best judge of prior art, since they're pretty familiar with their field of work and would probably know if someone has already invented the same thing. Besides the inventor, they ask a small group of similar experts within the company, and go ahead an file an application if no one knows of any prior art.
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 04:18 AM Thread Starter
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thanks. i have a pretty good familiarity with the area in question and i am pretty certain that nobody has come up with this innovation before.

do you know anything about the "provisional patent"? i looked a little bit more and found several services--most of which require purchasing, downloading and applying a software pacckage--for preparation of the provisional patent. again, they claim that the provisional patent, good for one year, can be had for around two-hundred bucks. does this sound right?
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 04:11 PM Thread Starter
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here is one of the services that i found:

http://www.patentwizard.com/

there are many more--most look pretty shady.
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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by puchisapo View Post
do you know anything about the "provisional patent"?
Nope. I suggest going straight to the "horse's mouth"; i.e., the USPOT patent page http://www.uspto.gov/main/patents.htm . They've got a bunch of information, for free.
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-13-2007, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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USPOT also calls it the "Provisional Patent". here's the link again:

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/provapp.htm

here's the cover sheet form:

http://www.uspto.gov/web/forms/sb0016.pdf

the filing fee is just $100 for "small entity".
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-17-2007, 03:45 AM Thread Starter
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i am going to get the provisional patent. i will really have to hustle to develop the product during the one-year term.

now i just need to figure out if i really need a lawyer to complete the app for provisional patent. i hope that i can avoid it.

i'll post again when i learn more about the process.

cheers

-D
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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-17-2007, 04:31 AM
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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-17-2007, 04:33 AM
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You can go to the main library branch, I believe for whatever state you are located. You can do a free patent search at the library.

I also heard of people getting papers notarized and then mailing them to themselves. The letter will come back with a government stamp. This would be good for extra security, if you are to manufacture it yourself. If someone would steal your idea then you would have proof from the federal government that is in fact yours. If someone else tried to create the same then you can sue.

There are tons of faults and loopholes in the patent process. For ex., just a little modification can destruct your idea or allow another to manufacture a similiar product. Saying that you really need to make some drafts of what you are really protecting, this is how the lawyers get paid for the use of their lingo.

All I can say is research, research, and research. If you find that your product does not exist and it is cost effective do yourself do the poorman's patent and start shucking product. Unless you got the dough, money talks.


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