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Posts Tagged: "ideas"

Beyond the Slice and Dice: Turning Your Idea into an Invention

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 so into focus  with enough detail that it will cross the idea / invention boundary.  It is when an idea matures to the point of being concrete and tangible enough to be described to another that the idea has become an invention, at least in general terms.

Moving from Idea to Patent: When Do You Have an Invention?

When you are moving from idea to invention to patent, regardless of how or why you find yourself stuck in the idea phase, the first order of business to get the ball rolling. You need momentum. In order to get that ball rolling what you need is a strategy to help you move past the idea and learn to describe your idea with enough specifics so that it no longer is what the law would call a merely an idea.  In a nutshell, if you can describe your idea with enough detail you don’t have an idea, what you have is an invention, or at least the makings of an invention. Here are 7 concrete steps you can take to help you get from your idea, to an invention worth patenting.

Protecting an Idea: Can Ideas Be Patented or Protected?

Many people ask: can ideas be patented? The short answer is no. Unfortunately, despite what you may have heard from late night television commercials, there is no effective way to protect an idea with any form of intellectual property protection. Copyrights protect expression and creativity, not innovation.  Patents protect inventions. Neither copyrights or patents protect ideas. This is not to suggest that ideas are not valuable, but they are not valuable in the same way or sense that pop culture has led many to believe.

Turning Your Idea into an Invention

Like anything in life that is new, whether it be returning to exercise after a lengthy hiatus or learning a new language, you have to walk before you can run. Put one foot in front of the other. Too often I see inventors who come up with the idea and want to cut through the middle steps and file a patent application. If they skip the middle steps then they likely don’t have an invention, they can get frustrated and give up… The moral of the story is that inventing is not rocket science; inventors are those with persistence and a plan. Spend time little by little working the idea, describing what you have in text, thinking about the various alternatives and then get some drawings. This step by step approach to inventing will get you from idea to invention, putting you in possession of all the information you will need to file a patent application and attract customers and potential licensees.

Inventing 101: Protecting Your Invention When You Need Help

Once you get that first provisional patent application filed you are ready to approach others for assistance with your invention. You have a measure of protection, but never forget you have no exclusive rights until the patent ultimately issues. You should also still get a confidentiality agreement signed by anyone who provides assistance to you. While the clock in the US is ticking to file the nonprovisional, the real important significance of confidentiality agreements after a provisional filing is so that those who assist you will not run off with your invention on their own. With this in mind, it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that you get an assignment of rights with respect to any protectable aspects provided by those giving you assistance.

What is a patent and where do patent rights come from?

A patent is a proprietary right granted by the Federal government pursuant to laws passed by Congress. The Congressional power to authorize patents is found in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution. exclusive rights are provided for a limited time as an incentive to inventors, entrepreneurs and corporations to engage in research and development, to spend the time, energy and capital resources necessary to create useful inventions; which will hopefully have a positive effect on society through the introduction of new products and processes of manufacture into the economy, including life saving treatments and cures. See Kewanee Oil Co. v. Bicron Corp., 416 U.S. 470, 480 (1974).

Helping start-ups turn ideas into valuable assets

The first thing we do is we assess the idea. And when we assess the idea we verify that the idea can lead to the creation of intellectual property. Because for me, if that’s not the outcome, then it’s not an idea worth pursuing. The second thing we’re looking for is merit. So we’re checking: is that a good idea? From my experience of 20 years in Silicon Valley, it all really comes down to the connection between the idea and the founder. Some people are trying to sell somebody else’s ideas. That’s not a good idea.

Abstraction in the Commonplace: Alice v. CLS Bank and its Use of Ubiquity to Determine Patent Eligibility

A troubling aspect of the analysis in the Alice opinion is the suggestion that an invention, once patent eligible, can become patent ineligible simply based on the passage of time and public adoption. Dialogue in the oral argument as well as statements in the Court’s opinion suggest this line of reasoning, which arguably originated in Bilski, has become an accepted principal . . . An invention may initially be susceptible to patenting but may later become ineligible for patenting (as opposed to becoming unpatentable due to lack of novelty or obviousness) as it becomes more adopted, ubiquitous, successful or commonplace. Ubiquity, it would seem, is now the touchstone not only for patentability but for patent eligibility too.

Moving from Idea to Patent – When Do You Have an Invention?

In order to protect an idea it must mature into an invention first. This means that you need to be able to explain to others how to make and use the invention so that they could replicate the invention after simply reading your description of the invention in a patent application. A patent application does not need to provide blue-print level detail, but rather it must teach those who have skill in the area you are innovating what they need to know to be able to carry out the invention. You also do not need to have a prototype, but you will need to be able to describe the invention with detail, providing sketches showing your inventive contribution. In order to get this far it is common for inventors to seek assistance from a product development company…

Protecting Ideas: Can Ideas Be Protected or Patented?

Unfortunately, despite what you may have heard from late night television, satellite radio commercials or snake oil salesmen, there is no effective way to protect an idea… If you get stuck in the idea phase don’t just throw in the towel. Many good many inventors will become stuck in the idea phase from time to time, so if that is where you are you are not alone. It may surprise you to learn that you just think you are stuck in the idea phase and you might actually have an invention without even knowing it yet… Many people will have great ideas, but what separates those who can turn their ideas into money from those who cannot is a strategy to define the idea enough so that it can become an asset that can ultimately be protected.

The Alice in Wonderland En Banc Decision by the Federal Circuit in CLS Bank v. Alice Corp

All the Judges rely on the same Supreme Court precedents in Gottschalk v Benson, Parker v. Flook, Diamond v. Diehr, Bilski v. Kappos, and Mayo v. Prometheus. All the Judges recognize the same judicial exception to statutory subject matter under §101 for laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas. All the Judges recognize that a claim must include “meaningful limitations” that go beyond an abstract idea. Hollow field-of-use limitations and insignificant pre or post-solution activity don’t count. However, this is where their similarities end.

A Beginner’s Guide to Patents and the Patent Process

Even when hiring a patent attorney inventors still need to be engaged in order to give the patent attorney the best information available about the invention. This seems simple enough, but so many inventors fail to understand what information is important and why it is necessary.  If you don’t understand that “why” you will you will almost never be able to provide all the information necessary.

The Real McCoy Part 2: I am a Man Who Thinks and My Thoughts are Valuable

One of the more indelible images of the civil rights movement are those from the Spring of 1968 as Black sanitation workers went on strike in Memphis, Tennessee holding signs that read “I am a Man,” in their fight for economic equality. (This is the reason that civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was visiting Memphis when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.) Now those signs should not only read “I am a Man Who Thinks,” but “I am a Man Who Thinks and My Thoughts are Valuable.” Thus, a skillful IP attorney can be a modern day civil rights attorney by aiding Blacks to create IP rights in order to preserve their exclusive right to economically exploit the fruits of their creativity.

Inventing 101: Protecting Your Invention When You Need Help

So how do you decide whether you have a mere idea or a conception that is on the road to a full blown invention? That is a difficult question to answer and one that has few, if any, bright line rules or useful generalizations. What I would say, however, is this: If you can sketch out the invention on paper (in the case of a device) or list the steps (in the case of a process) you likely have something that is tending toward the invention side of the idea-invention continuum. This is because in order to file a patent application you do not have to have ever made the invention or used it, you just need to be able to explain to others how to make and use the invention. So proofs on paper associated with written text explaining the particulars is enough to satisfy the patentability requirements in the United States. So in many, if not most, cases inventors have an invention capable of obtaining protection far earlier than they likely expect.

Protecting Your Invention When You Need Help

At what point does an idea take enough form to be considered an invention that can be protected? First, it is completely correct to say that ideas cannot be patented. Having said that, it is equally correct to say that every invention starts with an idea. The patent laws in the United States differentiate between a mere idea and conception. When you have a conception you have an invention, and the easiest way to define the term “conception” in lay terms is as an idea plus some knowledge regarding how to bring the idea into being, whether your idea is a compound, a product, a process or unique software.