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. SeePatent 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.
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.
To celebrate the 4th of July IPWatchdog wants to take a look back at some of this year’s most intriguing patent applications and issued patents related to fireworks. Brilliant, vibrant displays of reds, whites and blues streaking across the sky are a typical mark of this patriotic celebration of America’s declaration of independence from Great Britain. Although safety is an important issue to consider, people in many states are able to purchase their own fireworks and present displays of all shapes and sizes.
Today, we commemorate some advancements within the firework industry. Two patent applications we feature below have some interesting implications to the future of fireworks. One application would protect a kit that allows inexperienced consumers to easily set a fireworks display which is choreographed to music. Another application would provide more information to potential customers who want to view a firework in action before buying one.
A number of patents issued recently by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office serve to improve safety and manufacturing efficiency for fireworks. One patent provides a new combustion chamber design for the use of propellant materials that create less smoke, while another patent provides launcher reinforcements to protect spectators if a firework is installed improperly. A final patent we feature here protects a system of manufacturing firework cylinders to prevent inconsistencies in design that occur often with current manufacture processes.
A patent is a proprietary right granted by the Federal government to an inventor who files a patent application with the United States Patent Office. There are three types of patents available in the United States: (1) a utility patent, which covers the functional aspects of products and processes; (2) a design patent, which covers the ornamental design of useful objects; and (3) a plant patent, which covers a new variety of living plant. Each type of patent confers “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States.
It is important to note, however, that patents do not protect ideas, but rather protect inventions and methods that exhibit patentable subject matter. In other words, a patent can only protect something that is considered patent eligible. Generally speaking, in the United States the view of what is patent eligible is quite broad. Machines, compounds and processes are all patent eligible. Even living organisms that have been genetically engineered in a laboratory are patent eligible (see Diamond v. Chakrabarty). Business methods are also patent eligible in the United States (see Bilski v. Kappos; Patenting Business Methods in the U.S.; and Business Methods: Concrete and Tangible Description is a Must). Software is likewise patent eligible (see Ultramercial, LLC v.Hulu, LLCand Software Patents). Even modified DNA is patent eligible (see DNA patenting). Thus, it is typically more enlightening to discuss what is not patent eligible: laws of nature, abstract ideas, naturally occurring phenomena, so-called naked business methods (i.e., not tethered to any kind of machine or apparatus), inventions only capable of an illegal purpose and atomic weapons. Chances are that whatever you have can be characterized so that patent eligibility is not a significant impediment to receiving a patent.
Sony Corporation of Tokyo, Japan, is a major developer of electronics in many industries, including financial services, gaming and consumer devices. Sony has been making forays into the handheld electronic device markets, having recently announced the upcoming release of the Xperia Tablet Z, a handheld electronic tablet that’s resistant to water. Sony is also soon to release the PlayStation 4, a gaming console system that has already reportedly experienced very good presales.
As a major developer of electronics, Sony Corporation often files patent applications and is awarded patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This week at IPWatchdog’s series Companies We Follow, we take a closer look at some interesting patent documents assigned to Sony which the USPTO has released this month.
A few of the patent applications we profile here offer better methods of providing professional software services to electronic device users. One patent application improves the ability for amateur videographers to render 3D graphics while editing video. Another application would protect a new system of user camera settings that analyzes prior photos to determine user preferences for lighting and more.
Cisco Systems, Inc., headquartered in San Jose, CA, is a developer and manufacturer of Internet networking technologies, typically for business and corporate solutions. Recently, Cisco has been getting involved with cloud-based applications and services for Internet connectivity. Corporate actions in past weeks, including their acquisition of Ubiquisys, a developer of small-cell technologies for intelligent 3G mobile network connections, is evidence of this new focus.
This week in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we take a closer look at the Internet networking hardware developer’s recent innovations. Video conferencing has been a topic of interest for Cisco’s research and development teams, as two U.S. Patent & Trademark Office patent documents describe. One document, a patent application would protect a simpler system of establishing video conferencing connection. An US patent gives Cisco the right to protect a system of gauging member participation levels to make sure meeting members are paying attention.
Business marketing is a big topic in the digital world, and another Cisco patent application seeks to utilize a wide scope of user social interactions to build consumer profiles for smarter advertising. Other patent applications would protect systems of attaching metadata to media sessions for creating a diagnostic session log, and another protects methods of storing Bluetooth connections for quicker device authentication in call center systems.
Research In Motion Limited of Waterloo in Canada’s Ontario province has been a beleaguered brand in recent years. RIM’s flagship product, the BlackBerry, was a dominant mobile phone early in the 2000s, but advances to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android system earned both of those manufacturers a greater share of the market. Recently, RIM has been redeveloping its line of products and seeking new markets, especially with the company’s recent unveiling of the Q5, a low-cost device running the BlackBerry 10 operating system that will be available in Latin America, Asia and other emerging markets.
As a developer of mobile communication technologies, RIM is a common name each week at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. IPWatchdog is giving the creator of the BlackBerry a close look this week, covering some of the most interesting USPTO patent applications and patent awards published this month for the company.
Research In Motion’s development of better mobile devices is on display in a number of intriguing documents. One application released recently outlines RIM’s development of a mobile device with a flexible display that can be bent up to 180 degrees. Another patent application discusses new tunable capacitors using microwaves for better radio impedance matching. An official patent awarded to the company this week protects an accelerometer component that improves list scrolling within applications.
RIM is also focused on computer systems design providing user feedback. Two applications that give us a closer look at this research and development involve a custom system of building user word lists for predictive text models, as well as location-specific search engines parameters that a user can set manually.
Johnson & Johnson is a very respected brand in the consumer medical devices and pharmaceutical goods industries. Well known for its highly recognizable personal care products, including Band-Aids, Neutrogena and Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson is also a major player in other healthcare fields. For example, a recent piece from the investment research online publication Seeking Alpha discussed the company’s attempts to build the world’s first artificial, fully-functioning pancreas.
As a result of all this research and development, Johnson & Johnson will often file patent applications with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This week, IPWatchdog wants to take a look at the consumer and pharmaceutical health conglomerate to see what advances in personal medical care we can expect in the coming years. Perhaps the most exciting thing in our perusal of recent patents and patent applications is a patent just issued on certain topical anti-cancer compositions.
Many patent applications published also pertain to Johnson & Johnson’s extensive lineup of medical cosmetic products. One application would protect a dermabrasion kit with a detachable head for sensitive skin, and another was filed to protect a system of manufacturing bacteria-resistant contact lenses.
Johnson & Johnson is also focused on protecting medical devices designed by the company. Two other recent patent applications that we feature here are for punctal plugs (shown above right) and eye misting devices that can deliver medication directly to the body through the incredibly permeable membranes within the eye.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more.
Without hesitation I recommend One Simple Idea and think it should be required reading for any motivated inventor. There is so much to like about the book and so much that I think author Stephen Key nails dead on accurate. The book is educational, information and inspirational. For the $14 cover price it is essential reading.
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