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An Introduction to Patent Claims

Posted: Friday, Dec 23, 2011 @ 3:38 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 7 comments

The patent laws require that the applicant particularly point out and distinctly claim the subject matter which he or she regards as his or her invention. The portion of the application in which he or she does this is not surprisingly called the claims. Patent claims are in many respects the most important part of the application because it is the claims that define the invention for which protection is granted.  You can have the most thorough and complete description of an invention you can imagine in the issued patent and it won’t matter. Sure, such a thorough and complete description is an absolute prerequisite, but without adequate claim coverage no amount of description is enough to save you.

The exclusive right that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted to you is in the claims.  If you don’t have a claim that covers a particular thing then you don’t own the right, it is really that simple.  If your claims are too narrow, as is always the case when inventors represent themselves, it will be easy for others to get around your patent without infringement.  Patent claims isn’t the only reason you pay your patent attorney for assistance, but they are almost certainly the biggest single reason patent attorneys will always have work.

Patenting Board Games 101

Posted: Thursday, Dec 22, 2011 @ 12:22 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 16 comments

As we rapidly move forward toward Christmas the holiday season is more and more on my mind.  As I started contemplating what to write my mind wandered to a topic I have wanted to write about for a while, and which seems particularly appropriate at this time of year.  Board games.  I have so many good memories of receiving various board games as gifts over the years, particularly at Christmas.  Santa Claus always knew that I enjoyed playing board games, so every year there was at least one under the tree.

It might come as a surprise to some that board games are patentable, but they are indeed.  Processes have always been patentable and at its core a board game is just a method of playing by a predetermined set of rules.  The goal is to crown a winner and sequential and repeatable steps are engaged by two or more players.  Board games are definitely patentable, provided of course they are unique.  I won’t spend time discussing whether a board game is unique, but rather will assume that to be the case.  It is, however, always wise to first do some kind of a patent search to verify that you are not wasting your time and money following a path that will not likely lead to a patent being granted.  For more information on patent searches see Patent Search FAQs, Patent Searching 101 and Patent Searching 102.

Patent Filings Up Worldwide, Outpacing GDP Growth

Posted: Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 @ 2:52 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments

A new report published by WIPO today shows that intellectual property filings worldwide rebounded strongly in 2010 after a considerable decline in 2009.  In fact, the recovery in IP filings was stronger than the overall economic recovery. This is probably to have been expected given that patent filings in particular are a leading indicator of the introduction of new technologies into the marketplace.  The question now is whether the patent systems of the world can actually process these increased patent filings in a releavant time frame so that entrepreneurs and small businesses, who are the engine of growth, can be the catalyst pushing toward economic recovery.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), patent and trademark filings grew by 7.2% and 11.8% respectively in 2010 compared to growth of 5.1% in the global gross domestic product (GDP).  Not surprisingly China and the United States accounted for the greatest share of the increased filings.  With China you have a growing economy in a country with over 1.3 billion people.  With the United States you have the largest economy in the world and the rights granted are undoubtedly very strong given the fact that, for the most part, the U.S. judiciary is not anti-patent.  Not to be outdone, however, in Europe the growth of IP filings in France, Germany and the UK also far exceeded the GDP growth rate of these three European economies in 2010.

Design Patents: The Under Utilized and Overlooked Patent

Posted: Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011 @ 8:05 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 36 comments

DaimlerChrysler's Crossfire, subject of U.S. Design Patent D500,000

Once upon a time one of the ways you could spot the scams from the legitimate operators in the patent industry was to look at who was directing clients to get design patents. Design patents have always been easy to obtain, indeed far easier to obtain than a utility patent. Of course, as with many things in life and with virtually everything in the realm of intellectual property law, the easier something is to obtain the less rights that are conveyed. You can obtain a copyright for under $50 if you do it yourself and you get tremendously long protection in terms of years – generations really – but the rights are exceptionally weak. This tried and true set of rules has been turned on its head to at least some extent with respect to design patents and not nearly enough inventors are seeking design protection.

A protectable design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Distinguish if you will a an ordinary steak knife from a butcher’s knife.  In any knife there will typically be a handle and cutting blade.  A design patent would not protect the mechanical structure, but rather will protect the appearance.  In this regard it is possible for many different knives to receive design protection even though the basic handle and blade configuration is well known.  The question for patentability is whether the presentation or appearance of the functional item is unique.

Update, Thank You + Please Vote IPWatchdog

Posted: Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011 @ 1:29 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 6 comments

Hello everyone.  I am writing today to provide an update to our readers on several matters (i.e., Renee’s surgery and our server issues), and to make a plea for votes in the ABA Blawg 100 contest — IPWatchdog is in the IP Law category.

Renee’s Surgery

Renee at home recovering.

First, as many readers know, Renee had surgery last Thursday to correct a severely herniated disc in her neck.  See Social Media Diva to Have an Anterior Cervical Discectomy.  This came upon us rather quickly.  Upon having an MRI and seeing her doctor surgery was immediately scheduled.  The surgery went fine and Renee was discharged from the hospital on Friday, and has been home resting comfortably.  She was told to plan on doing little more than sleeping for about 10 days, and she has been complying with doctor’s orders in that regard.

In talking with the surgeon after the surgery we learned more about why surgery was so quickly scheduled.  Apparently some of the shooting tingling down into her legs in the days leading up to the surgery is indicative of near imminent and possibly irreversible failure.  Glad I knew that after the surgery!  In any event, there was no damage to her spinal cord and she is expected to make a full recovery and be better than new.  It will just take some time.  So she will be on hiatus through at least the end of 2012 and taking it slow as she eases back into the swing of things starting in January.

Raising Funds: Elements of a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

Posted: Wednesday, Dec 14, 2011 @ 2:03 pm | Written by Kevin Prince | 7 comments

Patent practitioners are often asked questions about business topics outside of intellectual property. One question I hear frequently is how to get funding for a new product. A newer source of startup capital is “crowd funding” through websites such as,, and These are examples of crowd-sourced funding platforms where backers financially support creative projects, including new product ideas. An inventor will post his idea and a financial goal for a set period of time to one of these websites, and if enough supporters back the idea by pledging small amounts, typically $25-$50, then the goal is reached and the credit card of each backer is charged. The crowd-funding website takes a cut, such as 5-10%, and the inventor gets the rest. If the goal amount is not met in time, none of the backers are charged and the project fails.

As an incentive to back the project, backers receive rewards determined by the inventor and the pledged amount. For example, at a $25 level the backer might get one of the first production units, or a signed copy of the patent, or some such. This seemed like a great way to test market an idea before spending money on it… “raise the flag” and see who salutes. If there’s demand for the product, the campaign should succeed and you’ll be on your way. If you can’t raise the goal amount it might be an indicator that the product would be a flop anyway and you’ve learned this without having to finance product design, tooling, and an initial production run. Pledges are not investments or loans, so there are no further obligations (after the rewards are delivered, of course).

The Social Media Diva to Have an Anterior Cervical Discectomy

Posted: Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011 @ 6:14 pm | Written by Renee C. Quinn | 20 comments

You can see my herniation right in the middle of this image of my MRI.

Last week I learned that, after unsuccessful treatments of physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy and steroids, I am going to need to have neck surgery, which is scheduled for Thursday, December 15. The surgery, called Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Arthrodesis, is necessary to correct advanced Cervical Spondylosis, severe disc herniation, significant spinal compression, moderate bilateral C6 Foraminal Stenosis and severe Osteoarthritis. So for us non spinal surgeons and doctors what that means is I have advanced herniation of my disc at the C6 level which has caused significant compression of my spine and a moderate pinching of my nerve. So why am I sharing this personal challenge with the readers of IPWatchdog?

After meeting with my doctor, discussing the results of my tests, reading through all of the documentation and talking to my mother who had a similar surgery in 2000, I realized that there have been so many medical breakthroughs over the years.  These medical breakthroughs make surgeries like this possible and in many cases with far better outcomes than in years passed.  So I thought I would write about some of those revolutionary technologies and the Hall of Fame inventors who were responsible for them.

Vote for Chance to Win FREE PLI Patent Bar Review Course

Posted: Monday, Dec 12, 2011 @ 11:00 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments has once again been selected by the Journal of the American Bar Association as one of the top 100 legal blogs. The voting has now begun to crown the top blog in 12 different categories. is in the IP Law category.

In cooperation with the Practising Law Institute, I will be giving away 1 free PLI Patent Bar Review Course to one lucky individual. Entry is free, but to be eligible you must vote for and tweet the vote count after your vote. To successfully enter your Tweet needs to say:

“Voted IPWatchdog for top IP Law Blog Vote count = XXX. Cast your vote today! @ipwatchdog @plipatentbar @PractLawInst.”

Voting and tweeting as per above will get you 1 entry.  1 entry per person.