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An Overview of the U.S. Patent Process

Posted: Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 @ 4:16 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 2 comments
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Posted in: Educational Information for Inventors, Gene Quinn, Inventors Information, IP News, Articles, Patent Prosecution, Patents

The patent process actually starts well before you file a patent application or seek assistance from a patent attorney. Every patent application starts with an invention, and every invention starts with an idea.  While ideas are not patentable, there will be a point in time when the idea you are working on comes into vision with enough detail to cross what I call the idea / invention boundary.  To have a protectable invention you have to be able to describe it with enough detail so that someone of skill in the relevant technical field can understand how to both make and use the invention.  Once you can do that, or once the patent attorney or patent agent you hire can, you are ready to file a patent application. If you are struggling at the idea phase please see Turning Your Idea into an Invention and Moving from Idea to Patent.

The first step in the patent process should really be a patent search.  Doing a patent search is the only way to get a realistic idea about whether the invention is likely able to be protected.  There is nothing wrong with inventors doing their own preliminary search, and in fact that is very useful task.  See Patent Searching 101. At some point as your project proceeds you should have a professional patent search done.  Only with a professional patent search will you really discover everything that can be found.  Just like a novice in your field would make mistakes, as a novice patent searcher won’t find everything that can be found, including many things that really need to be considered during the drafting stage of a patent application.  After all, the whole point of a patent application is to articulate how the invention is unique.  How can  you do that without a comprehensive knowledge of what exists in the prior art?

In many cases, if not most cases, a patent search will suggest that at patent could be obtained.  The critical question, however, is not whether a patent can be obtained, but rather whether a useful patent can be obtained.  If you layer on enough specifics to any invention you will cross the point where the patent examiner will say your invention is new and non-obvious. But a patent that has such narrow claims is hardly useful for anything other than framing and hanging on the wall.

Drafting Patent Applications: Writing Method Claims

Posted: Friday, Oct 11, 2013 @ 7:07 pm | Written by Gene Quinn | 12 comments
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Posted in: Educational Information for Inventors, Gene Quinn, Inventors Information, IP News, Articles, Patent Drafting, Patents

It is not uncommon for inventors to want to attempt to draft and file patent applications on their own, and I frequently get asked about sample patent applications. Here is where you as an inventor need to make a critical choice, and making a thoughtfully considered business decision is fine, but fooling yourself into believing that you can and will do as good a job as a patent professional is an enormous mistake.

I cringe at times because some inventors will make a reckless choice, or choose to represent themselves because they think you can do as well as a patent attorney who has dedicated their entire career to mastery of the art.  It is true that the cost of hiring an attorney to draft a patent application can price inventors out of the market, and in that case inventors are left with no real choice, or so it seems. Either you do nothing and simply don’t pursue patent rights, or you have to do something on your own that is within your budget.

If paying a patent attorney is out of the question because of lack of funding you would serve yourself well to sit down and carefully go over your budget (which all inventors should do) and ask whether you have the financial resources and abilities to pull off the project. Inventing, patenting and making money by commercializing does not come cheap, and if you have few resources you might be better off building your savings so you can appropriately pursue your inventions in the future. If you are truly an inventor you are creative and, trust me, there will be many inventions in your future. Rarely in my experience does an inventor have only one idea/invention. Creative people create, which means it can be particularly important to manage your budget wisely. Carelessly pursuing one invention and recklessly spending funds can make it difficult, if not impossible, to move forward when you find the truly great idea/invention.

Summer Fun Patent Style: Patentable Fun at the Beach

Posted: Friday, Aug 9, 2013 @ 11:09 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | 1 Comment »
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Posted in: Fun Stuff, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation, USPTO

Castle and moat beach toy.

During the summer months, beaches are major tourist destinations across the country. Americans take almost two billion trips to beaches every year and spend billions in beach communities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. All of these beach visitors look for a variety of ways to enjoy their time near or in the water.

Today in IPWatchdog’s continuing Summer 2013 Fun series, we want to look at some very intriguing patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding fun at the beach. A number of these documents describe active games for many participants that involve a lot of physical activity. One issued patent protects a safe game for young children who rush out to plant a flag in the coast while avoiding incoming waves. Another issued patent describes a portable tennis court for beach use.

Three other patent applications featured here encourage more passive forms of play and recreation. A first application would protect a style of beach golf where players can easily build a small course. Another patent application describes a portable beach toy kit that builds a more complete play environment, including a castle and a moat. Finally, we take a look at a patent application that would protect a board for a seashell collection game.

Fun in the Sun Patent Style: Lifeguard Patents

Posted: Friday, Jul 26, 2013 @ 3:30 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Fun Stuff, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation

With droves of people flocking to the beach, the role of the beach lifeguard becomes much more important. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, which certifies open water lifeguards, USLA lifeguards completed a total of 69,070 rescues during 2012, about half of which were rip current rescues. USLA lifeguards also completed a total of 307,893 medical aids during that year.

Today in IPWatchdog’s 2013 Summer Fun series, we’re taking a look at patents that recognize the importance of safety at the pool or beach. A number of patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that we feature in today’s column describe systems and tools to aid lifeguards in their work. One patent application explains a buoy system that can wrangle multiple distressed swimmers and provide them with a flotation line. One issued patent protects a rescue tube with a recessed extension strap for safer use. A second issued patent protects a system of detecting rip tides through computer analysis of video.

Two other documents we’re discussing here create safety systems for swimmers when there are no lifeguards present, or if a lifeguard can’t detect a problem. One issued patent is for an alarm system that sounds if it detects that a swimmer is in danger. Finally, one last issued patent discusses an emergency contact system for putting poolside rescuers who aren’t trained to react to emergencies in touch with emergency personnel.

Fun in the Sun Patent Style: Let’s Go Surfing Now!

Posted: Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 @ 8:03 pm | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation, USPTO

For many summer weather enthusiasts, this time of year is the best for getting out on the water and surfing the largest waves they can find. Surfboards have been around since the 1940s and have grown in popularity as a summer pastime in coastal areas.

Although mostly a hobby, surfboards have been an intriguing focus for technology developers. In an earlier Summer Fun article at IPWatchdog, we took a look at a surfboard that collects solar energy to generate electricity. Sustainable surfboard manufacturing has been a focus, as evidenced by this article that discusses how styrofoam packaging for TVs and other appliances can be reformed into surfboards. Some companies are even developing 3D printers capable of printing custom surfboards for many customers.

Today in IPWatchdog’s Summer 2013 Fun series, in  honor of the ongoing U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California, we’re featuring some of the most interesting new patent applications and issued patents related to surfing. Some of these newly devised innovations are designed to help a surfer save their physical energy. One patent application describes a new powered surfboard with a detachable chair for riding far out into a body of water. Another issued patent protects an attachable hard edge that can improve the performance of inflatable surfboards, which are easier to transport. A new four-pointed tail design from a patent application would improve a surfer’s speed and control on the water.

Sunburn Safety: Innovating Ways to Protect from UV Rays

Posted: Saturday, Jul 20, 2013 @ 8:00 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Fun Stuff, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann

The summer months are a great time to enjoy a wide array of outdoor activities, like swimming, running or different types of team sports. However, even just a few hours outside with unprotected skin can create a sunburn that’s not just uncomfortable but possibly damaging.

A person with fair skin can develop a sunburn in 30 minutes, even when the ultraviolet (UV) index is at low levels. However, many don’t protect themselves like they should with clothing and sunblock lotion. In fact, a study conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support found that 40 percent of those in Britain that sunbathe for a tan purposefully continue until they’ve gotten a sunburn, even when many know that this increases their risk of contracting skin cancer.

Today in IPWatchdog’s Summer Fun series, we’re looking at a series of patent applications and issued patents protecting systems of improving protections from UV radiation. A number of these documents regard new systems of determining unsafe levels of radiation. One patent application has been filed to protect an apparatus that detects the level of sunburn developing on a person’s skin. Another application protects a reactive dye that changes color to indicate UV radiation levels. An issued patent protects a test strip kit that can also indicate unsafe UV levels prior to going outside.

Treatments for sunburn are another major focus for developers of UV radiation protections. One issued patent protects an orally administered treatment that helps prevent against sunburns. A final patent application featured here has been filed to protect a topical ointment that can either prevent or treat sunburns while improving on prior chemical compositions for sunblock lotion.

Boeing Invents: The Pursuit of Safer Air Travel

Posted: Friday, Jul 19, 2013 @ 10:55 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Boeing, Companies We Follow, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Steve Brachmann, Technology & Innovation, USPTO

From U.S. Pat. App. 20130133202, for fire resistant thermoplastics.

As a leader in the development of commercial airliners, The Boeing Company of Chicago, IL, is greatly involved in improving safety systems for their aircraft. In recent days, the perception of unsafe aircraft has been hurting the airplane manufacturer.

A recent fire onboard a Boeing Dreamliner at London’s Heathrow Airport refocused concerns on the recently developed cruise liner, which was maligned with battery fire issues earlier this year. In early July, a high-profile Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco involving a Boeing 777 airliner has also troubled the company, although the investigation seems to be focusing on pilot error in that case. Still, when dealing with air transit there is zero margin for error. When errors do occur when an airplane is in use they frequently are catastrophic, so the search for safer technologies is a never ending pursuit.

Today in our Companies We Follow series, we’re taking another look at Boeing, especially taking a look at their efforts to develop even safer systems of airborne transportation. Some of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office documents we feature here highlight Boeing’s improvements to emergency systems on aircraft. One Boeing patent application would improve flame-retardant windows so that they create fewer toxic emissions during a fire. One issued patent details Boeing’s creation of a system for detecting suitable areas to land an aircraft away from an airport, in case of emergency.

Other USPTO published documents detail Boeing’s development of better safety detection systems. Two patents we take a close look at describe improvements to electrical wire inspection to detect degradation in wire insulation and a sensing circuit for detecting a properly attached seat buckle. Finally, one patent application filed by Boeing would provide a system for detecting volcanic ash within a jet engine.

Fun in the Sun Patent Style: Swimming Pool Patents

Posted: Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 @ 7:40 am | Written by Steve Brachmann | No Comments »
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Posted in: Fun Stuff, Guest Contributors, IP News, Articles, Patents, Technology & Innovation

Water Basketball and Volleyball Game Apparatus

When the weather gets hotter, scores of people head to the beach, public pools or go to a friend or family member’s house to lounge in a backyard pool. When people get together, competitive games are sure to break out. This week in IPWatchdog’s Summer Fun 2013 series, we’re looking at issued patents and applications that are geared towards aquatic athletes of all kinds.

Water sports can take on a number of strange forms. We’re familiar with water volleyball and water polo, among other games, but competitive water sports can take on many forms. For example, many Eastern rowing enthusiasts take part in “dragon races”; many of these competitions happen in China, where the sport originates, but North American cities like Toronto have played host to this event. This summer, reports from American regions like the Great Lakes indicate that water levels are higher than normal this year, enticing many to take to bodies of water where they can play various games.

Today, we’ll start by taking a look at a few patents issued to inventors by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding different aquatic sports. One patent protects a water polo-style goal that provides a better gameplay experience than previous designs, while another provides for netting installation that keeps a ball in play if a throwing player misses the goal. Another patent protects a new style of athletic shoe for water sports.