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Is a patent really worth it?

20 July 2010 9 CommentsBy Sarah Shaw

Have you ever had some incredible idea and wondered if you should patent it?  Most people have at some point in their life.  Have you ever seen a bronze plaque of a patent on someones wall and thought it was cool?  I know I have! But the real deal is a plain piece of paper with your patent info…….not a plaque.  Boo Hoo!

I have a design patent and let me tell you – it isn’t all roses all the time.  Yes, I was very fortunate for the first few years until someone started to infringe…….boy was I hopping mad.  After many lawyer letters back and forth and several thousands of dollars, I really got nowhere.  This company was a shell and we could never find a real person to actually bring a suit against so we gave up after a year or two.   Then suddenly, they disappeared for a while (I thought they’d given up and I’d won!) then resurfaced about a year later with a PATENT over my patent!!  After crying to my attorney – there really wasn’t anything to do any more.  Fortunately they sell to a totally different market and don’t seem to be taking away any of my market share – but it is still annoying.  My experts below share a few of their tips for those of you considering a patent.

Hope this helps you make a decision!

1. Legal Smegal Patents or Not

To patent or not to patent: Many of my clients have patents, several have had to defend them. Get one, I say yes and make sure the documentation is impeccable! Check with several patent attorneys before going with one.

Those that have defended patents find it is long and arduous journey. After all it is the legal system! When they did finally win or settle they came out ok, but not sure they wanted another patent.

The main point seems to be the small variant in design that makes it a new patent! Good luck!
Thanks to: Harlan Goerger of AskHG.com by H. Goerger & Associate.

2. Design Patent Unfairly Treated

To patent or not to patent: My patent research stopped short of contacting an attorney. What I learned was getting a design patent would cost me thousands of dollars and if one person copied my product but changed ONE TINY DETAIL they could patent their design and so on and so on. Design patents aren't worth the money.
Thanks to: Shelly Gnewikow of Craft chicks.

3. Ideas=$$$$$

To patent or not to patent: Yes, patents are worth it! Creativity must be protected in order for anyone who conceived an idea to keep it and possibly enjoy the revenue fruits of their labor! If you are in a dilemma as to whether or not to patent an idea, ask yourself these questions: (1) Are your ideas valuable to you? (2) What would you do if you saw someone had made money from your unprotected idea?

Protect your ideas and sleep better at night!
Thanks to: Mary Winkenwerder.

4. Patent..path to Future

To patent or not to patent: A product/process/service must be unique or innovative and be first to be patented. A patented product offers many safeguards & financial sustainability to the patent holder:
1.Piracy & duplicity is discouraged.
2.Opportunity to franchise your Patent and earn lifelong financial benefits in the form of Licence/usage/Royalty fee etc.
3. Opportunity of globalization of your product/s.

Getting patent is tedious, time consuming and financially expensive proposition. Product must be unique.
Thanks to: Naresh Vij of Kaveri Consultants, India.

5. Protect your gadget FREE!

To patent or not to patent: 97% of private patents don't succeed so don't waste your money. Filing a patent application costs nothing. So, file an application. You will receive a patent number and a date indicating that you have an application pending. Now put Patent Pending on your product and scare off would be copyists. As the twelve month deadline for payment approaches simply allow that application to lapse and refile for nothing. You can be Patent Pending for ever!
John Richards 'The Naked Inventor' from Amazon.
Thanks to: John Richards of Ideasun Ltd.

6. Do a patent search!!

To patent or not to patent: I feel a patent is important,especially for the independent inventor that may want to license their product.I find many inventors skip over a very important step of the invention process, doing a patent search.Inventors should check search engines & USPTO.gov with various descriptions of their idea. If the idea is out there already,they should consider how different their invention may be.If they still didn't find anything similar,they should have a patent search done by a patent attorney/agent.
Thanks to: Brian Fried of Got Invention Radio.

7. Keeping Trade Secrets Quiet

To patent or not to patent: We chose not to patent our technology due to a few reasons. Because we are a self funded start up, we did not have the funds to pursue a patent. Secondly, we realize that with a patent, we would have to divulge all of our trade secrets which would allow our competitors to easily reproduce our technology. And lastly, if our competitors copied our patented technology, we wouldn't have the funds to defend ourselves in court as legal fees would be astronomical.
Thanks to: Phyllis Cheung of My Wedding Concierge.

8. Profit from your invention

To patent or not to patent: A patent gives you the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling your invention. In other words, others need your permission, typically a license, to practice your claimed invention. A well prepared patent with broad claims is more valuable than a patent with narrow, very specific claims because it has broader licensing potential. Negotiating a license is much cheaper than suing for patent infringement, even though the negotiations can take a protracted period of time to complete.
Thanks to: Ian Blum of Cohen Pontani Lieberman & Pavane.

9. Success! Maybe!

To patent or not to patent: Given the amount of time and effort I put into developing the invention, there was a certain level of comfort achieved in securing a patent for it, regardless of whether I attempt to commercialize it or not. But the patent system is hardly perfect, often burdened with large financial expense and less-than-qualified people. I felt I had no choice but to let go of my attorney and finish the process alone, and my success or failure might not be truly determined unless and until I need to defend it.
Thanks to: Bill Kostuj of WaggleWeight(TM).



  • Heather said:

    I really like idea #5 from John Richards ‘The Naked Inventor’ to be “patent pending”. It not only may keep copiers at bay, but you can always finish the application process if you choose to or always be “patent pending”.

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

  • Talia said:

    Check out this article on the Blog of Timothy Ferriss.

    A Beginner’s Guide: How to Rent Your Ideas to Fortune 500 Companies (Plus: Video)

    It is all about inventing things and getting companies to pay for the patents while they give you the royalties.

    This is Stephen Key’s website, who is featured in the post


  • Playable FlashHarp® Harmonica USB Flash Drive inventor said:

    Idea #5 describes the Provisional Patent. It’s not free (Provisionals cost $100 per app, I believe) but it does provide protection for a year; then it expires. After that, I believe the USPTO can refer to that same Provisional application in citing “Prior Art” (the previous existence of an idea) for any other inventions. In other words, I doubt one would get any real protection from repeatedly re-filing a new Provisional for the same invention. Of course I’m just The Backyard Harmonica Teacher, not a patent attorney! Click on my title above to check out my patented FlashHarp ( http://www.FlashHarp.com )!

    Best Regards,
    The Backyard Harmonica Teacher

  • Playable FlashHarp® Harmonica USB Flash Drive inventor said:

    I misstated the fact regarding Idea #5 above. A Provisional is not protection. It’s not even reviewed by the USPTO. It just sits there in case you decide you want to go for it during that 1-year provisional time.

    Also, if you’re thinking about a Design patent, forget about filing a Provisional. You can’t refer to a Provisional in a Design patent filing. Sorry!

    Best Regards,
    The Backyard Harmonica Teacher

  • The Inventor Alan Klukis said:

    I have been searching for answers for a long time now…in the last five years I have come up with 278 good ideas that I want to patent but did not have the money for even one of them. I have worked for other business owners who spent millions of dollars defending their trade secrets and design patents and got nothing in return. What I have concluded is that if you have a great idea there will be a great deal of money involved for protecting it and producing it correctly. If you don’t have a great deal of money, use what you do have…a great brain for coming up with new solutions to problems. You don’t have to be a patent attorney to file a patent, you just need to have the knowledge of how to patent one…so teach yourself you can learn any thing you want from the internet, it’s global library of free information! A provisional patent currently costs $220 to file the application, which you can supposedly do in one day, realistically more like a week, correctly probably a month. A good resource is the book “Patent Pending in 24 Hours” by Stim & Pressman. Also another great book is “The Inventor’s Bible” by Sr. Docie Ronald Louis, this book walks you through the process from having an idea in your sketchbook to getting it on the shelves in stores. I like IDEA #5′s thinking, but it has some flaws. You can only file an idea once, after a year it is considered public knowledge and anyone in the world can reproduce your product, unless you file for a non-provisional patent before the one year is up. There are three different types of non-provisional patents which have different protections and different application fees. So it depends on what you are inventing. A design patent currently costs $220, a plant patent $220, and a utility patent $330(the most common). A typical utility patent application takes about two to three years before it becomes awarded as an official patent. Sarah Shaw, who wrote this article, had a design patent, which does not protect a product very well at all. If someone changes how her product looks one little bit, they can get their own design patent or be smarter and get a utility patent which has the same look and function as her product.

    So in summary, for $550 you can scare away your competition for up to four years, however patent applications can now be viewed on http://www.google.com/patents. So really after a year anyone can look at your patent application and file one of their own very similar to yours if yours is not done right. They could also get a close enough patent to sue you for infringement within four years. If they win with all their big money backing them, then not only would you have to stop making your own product…you would have to pay them a fee for every one of your own products you sold! As f*cked up as that is, it’s how it works! So the real question is…Can you make a name for yourself and find a niche in the market within four years to establish enough wealth and popularity to defend your intellectual property? Because that is really the only time you have to MAKE IT HAPPEN before someone with more money can shut you down in the courthouse. Don’t loose hope though, EVEN IF SOMEONE STEALS YOUR IDEA, THEY CAN’T STEAL THE BRAIN THAT IS CAPABLE OF COMING UP WITH AN EVEN BETTER IDEA LATER ON!

    Watch the movie “A Flash of Genius” it shows one inventor’s determination which eventually paid off. He sued Ford by himself…and won! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnMqCfesAZ8&feature=related TRAILER

    I just started my own manufacturing company out of my garage and backyard. I started by researching prior art and my competitors! I have spent the last six months figuring out the perfect and most efficient design through 20+ prototypes, making or buying the right tools and machines for assembly line production, designing packaging, finding suppliers and distributors, registering my business with the state, setting up a bank account, and making a website (offline). The best part is I did all this at home for under $1500 because I acquired the right KNOWLEDGE of what and how I needed do next…all in secrecy. Now, it is time to file a provisional patent…then MARKET MY IDEA! This way I am not wasting INVALUABLE PATENT PENDING TIME trying to figure out everything else involved with getting my IDEA out there. Hope this helps and inspires more inventors to keep going and make the world a better place.

    P.S. FlashHarp…love your product! Does it actually work as a harmonica still? I play the harp and nerd out on the computer quite a bit, it would be a great everyday tool for my pocket!

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  • Richard said:

    My partner and I recently submitted a design patent to the USPTO.
    The utility patent for our invention will be a complex project. I am the original flash of inspiration designer and electronics/ control guy. My partner owns a complete machining/welding, fabrication shop and warehouse. He figures out how to take the rough framework, electronic, and motor apparatus I come up with, and make it work in the real world. We have been stealthy about testing our machines, and have in house testers who give us feedback. We are self financed, and have a local angel who does not charge us for much of the raw metal stock we consume.
    We go to the main industry trade show and keep a very close eye on the nearest competition. We have not seen anyone come close to what we do.
    It has come to my attention that we cannot afford to get international patent(s) on our invention. We will be lucky to be able to afford US patents. Protecting what we do in North America will be difficult enough.
    I do not want to single any particular country out, but it has come to our attention that copies of what we do could be rolling off the assembly line and brought to market in other parts of the world within weeks or months of them finding out about our better mousetrap. If we show what we do at the main trade show, various foreign factories could be eating our lunch in a matter of weeks.
    We need a distribution system that can get enough units out and allow us to recoup our development costs and hopefully show some black ink before the wolves pick our bones. There are thousands of potential customers for our product in North America, and it is easy to imagine many of them could afford to buy hand made in the USA versions before we have to go offshore to undercut the premium product in advance of the inevitable copycats. Our rough plan is to undercut the pricing on our own product by having much of it made elsewhere. At least we can control the quality of the massed produced product and take some of the pirate’s incentive away. I can imagine a boutique/ special order operation along with the cheaper massed produced product.
    It is depressing to go to the trade show and see fabulous North American designed products that have horrible clones made and marketed within a few years of the initial domestic product roll out. It seems to be common enough for North American manufacturers to not patent unique designs and try to make their money before the market becomes dominated with the rip offs.

  • Stephen Powers said:

    By filing for a Patent and receiving a Patent, you establish ownership of an idea similar to the way a “title” does for a car or a “deed” does for real estate. Like other forms of property, patents are valuable assets and can be bought, sold, leased, used as collateral for loans, and even inherited.

    Maintaining a competitive edge in today’s “idea economy” requires effectively guarding your intellectual property rights through the use of US Patents. The core value of most businesses isn’t in land, equipment, manufacturing facilities, or other physical property. Today, the most valuable assets of many companies are knowledge-based intangible assets such as proprietary know-how and the innovative application of new ideas or methods of doing business.

    We offer free consultations

    Design patent including formal drawings, research, filing fee’s = 1400.00

    Gulf Coast Intellectual Property Group, LLC
    5450 Bruce B. Downs
    Suite 355
    Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

  • Lyle said:

         Yes, utility patents are expensive. If you have a really good idea, a utility patent is worth it's weight in gold. Inventing a new anti spill device for your coffee cup… Not a really good idea, or invent a way for insurance companies to save 5 billion dollars a year for 50 bucks… A really good idea! 

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