Author Archive:Carolyn Keane

ByCarolyn Keane

Patent Search 101: Why US Patent Searches are Critically Important

By Gene Quinn  January 13, 2018

US Patent Search: US Patent Searches are essential.Inventors will frequently ask why they need to spend the money on a US patent search, and all too frequently believe patent searches are unnecessary. There are various iterations of this question, starting out with “why do I need a patent search, I’ve already searched myself and cannot find anything,” to “there is nothing on the market like their invention, so why would a US patent search be necessary?” After all how could someone have ever come up with their invention?

Surveying the market is a wise first step, but there may be patents lurking. There are various reasons for this, but one big reason is because an independent inventor or small company came up with the invention previously, filed and obtained a patent, but then lacked the resources or know-how to bring the product to market. Then when others came up with the same or similar idea and found that issued patent they abandoned the project and never took the product to market because they could not own the exclusive rights, which meant that if the product succeeded on the market a larger competitor could simply copy with impunity.

It is also a wise first step to do your own patent search if you are an inventor. Spending time looking for related patents and perhaps even more importantly reading related patents is a very useful endeavor. If you can find a patent reference that you feel is too close for comfort then you have saved the money associated with paying for a professional patent search and/or hiring a patent attorney or patent agent.

Notwithstanding, I am always skeptical when I hear inventors say that they have done their own US patent search and have found nothing. Patent searching is as much an art as it is a skill, and if you are not familiar with advanced search strategies it is not surprising that you are unable to find anything too close, but rest assured there are always patents to find that are at least similar in some ways. I have put together a patent search tutorial, which will help give you some strategies. So absolutely start with your own patent search, but at some point before spending thousands of dollars to obtain a patent you should obtain a professional patent search and patentability opinion.

If you hire a professional patent search firm you may want to also consider adding an international patent search. Some search firms may already include an international patent search in the price, or at least a search of certain foreign databases. While US patent searches are essential, international patent searches are preferable if you can afford the extra cost.

The patent process can be expensive. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money preparing and filing an application when there is easy to find prior art that will prevent a patent. For this reason many inventors and businesses will choose to begin the process by paying for some kind of patent search. The expense of a patent application is saved if knock-out prior art is located. If no serious road blocks are found the patent search will normally lead to a better, stronger patent application and potentially smoother application process.

The reason US patent searches lead to a better, strong patent application is because the first application filed is absolutely critical. All aspects of your invention must be disclosed, nothing new can be added without compromising the all important filing date (aka priority date). After having done a patent search the initial disclosure can be specifically written to carefully define your invention so as to focus on what is most likely the patentable feature or components.

Who can do a US patent search?

Anyone can do a patent search using the online Patent Office database, but this database only contains patents issued since 1976, so such a search is not complete. Google has a patent search engine is very quick, and it includes patents going all the way back to into the early 1800s. Unfortunately, Google Patents has a limited number of searchable fields. Still, Google Patents is an excellent first place to start, particularly where you don’t know exactly what you are looking for.

How can you not know what you are looking for? The answer is simple. You know your invention, but likely won’t know the exact language patent practitioners typically use to describe the features and functions of your invention.

Many years ago I was doing a search on a bubble mailer, but couldn’t find anything initially. After spending a little time searching it became clear that the term “bubble mailer” was not the way that patent practitioners were describing this. I could have given up, but knew there had to be something. After searching I finally found a reference that described something similar. When I revised my search terms I found a trove of related references. To find the best results with a word search  you need to know how patent practitioners describe things in patent applications and issued patents, that is when the most relevant prior art will be located. Using Google Patents at least initially is very helpful because they search synonyms.

Next Steps in Your Patent Search

After you find some relevant patents you might find it helpful to switch over to, which allows for specific fields to be searched. Indeed, using both and Google patent search makes a lot of sense.

The best and most reliable patent search will be done by a professional that is intimately familiar with both advanced searching techniques and classification systems. If you are not familiar with advanced search techniques and classification you are almost certainly going to miss the most relevant prior art in your own search. So search on your own to see if you can find something without spending any money, and to educate yourself on what information is included in patents. Then before you file remember that it is better to spend hundreds of dollars on a professional patent search now than to spend many thousands of dollars only to learn later that a patent cannot be obtained.

Why can’t I just get a cheap patent search?

Before you purchase a no-frills patent search it is important to know what you are getting. Frequently, overseas providers are the ones offering bargain basement prices. These searchers may not speak English as their first language, and sending technical information overseas can violate US export laws. Respect for propriety rights may also be limited, making it culturally acceptable to take or share propriety information.

Having someone who does not speak English as their first language and who does not live in the US do a patent search is extremely dangerous. I have no doubt overseas searchers are intelligent, but the way you find references is by knowing how patent attorneys and patent agents would or could describe various features and components. Therefore, intimate familiarity with the English language and common usages of the English language are absolutely essential.

A cautionary tale about bad patent searches

One example on this point. Many years ago my firm had a client who literally invented a new hog trap. An overseas search company performed the patent search. We knew immediately that the search could not be relied upon. Of course, one of the problems is sometimes when you obtain bargain basement US patent searches it is hard to know if the search is reliable, which is why pay a little extra for a professional search by a reputable search firm make sense.

In this cautionary example the patents found related to a pipelines for commercial and industrial applications. Devices known as “pipeline pigs” are used to conduct maintenance on pipeline without requiring the pipeline to be shut down. According to Wikipedia these devices originally got their name because when used a high pitch squealing noise is made, which sounds like a pig. Obviously, the searcher who didn’t understand our inventor’s hog trap simply searched synonyms, trading hog for pig. We knew that the search was unreliable, but sadly bad searches frequently lead to elation because the search uncovers nothing even close, which makes the patent search suspect.

Does a professional patent search come with a guarantee?

Unfortunately, no guarantees can be provided. Pending patent applications are published 18 months after filing, which means not all relevant prior art can be found even with a professional patent search. Even with an exhaustive and professional patent search cannot locate everything pending and not yet published. Additionally, when you do apply for a patent it is extremely likely that the patent examiner will rely on at least some patents that you did not know about.  Examiner rejection are sometimes unanticipated. It can also be due to the fact that the description of the invention is unintentionally overbroad.  Sometimes it is because an examiner will weave together multiple patents to make a rejection.

Receiving a rejection from a patent examiner is as normal and common as paying taxes every April 15th. The key to obtaining a patent is to have an application with sufficient disclosure (both broadly defining and narrowly defining your invention) so that if an examiner does make a rejection or find prior art that you can amend your application as necessary to satisfy the examiner and obtain a patent. Therefore, it is important to understand that the goal of a patent search is not to guarantee that there is no relevant prior art that will bar patentability, but rather to investigate whether pursuing with the expense of a patent application makes sense. Patent searches allow you to make fully informed business decisions.

What about US patent searches from invention promotion companies?

There is absolutely a dark side to the invention marketplace, and inventors need to be careful. No better example exists than the Federal Trade Commission winning an injunction against World Patent Marketing, a company charged with devising a fraudulent scheme to use consumer funds to enrich themselves.

Part of the typical invention scheme is to tell you what you want to hear. Suspect companies tell you that they are excited to work with you and recommend a patent search that will cost around $800 (typically). Then they come back with great news, they cannot find any patents that relate to your invention, which should be a red flag. With nearly 10,000,000 issued US patents and many millions of published patent applications it would be quite rare for an invention to address a problem never before considered by anyone.

There are reputable companies you can work with in the invention space. When looking for a reputable company it is important to understand that the hallmark of a legitimate company is they will not do absolutely everything you need. Be careful when a company promises to be a one-stop-shop. While it is perfectly legitimate for companies work together, it is extremely unusual for any company to provide a professional patent search, engineering support, licensing services and legal services. Indeed, the ethics rules largely prohibit patent practitioners from working with these types of companies. So be careful (and suspicious) if you never get any direct contact with a patent attorney or patent agent.

Do I Need a Patent Attorney for a US Patent Search?

There is a longer answer here that deals with whether it is wise to pursue a patent application without a patent professional, but given the topic here relates to US patent searches for now suffice it to say that if you only pay for a professional patent search you are going to get just a list of patents that are relevant, or maybe copies of the patents. When you purchase patent searches you do not get a patentability opinion, nor do you get to talk to someone to help you interpret the results of the search. Most inventors want and need to have the results interpreted and explained by either a patent attorney or a patent agent, so if that is the service you are looking for be careful when you go directly to a patent search firm and purchase only a patent search.

For competent, thorough US patent searches alone you would pay at least $400 for something that is relatively simple and up to $800 to $1,000 for a search alone on something complex, or deals with software. This cost is for the professional patent search alone, and does not include the cost of an attorney to review the search and offer an opinion about patentability.

Before you hire anyone – here is a class you can take on your own time to start the search and save money –

ByCarolyn Keane

Are there any free tools for SEO?

ByCarolyn Keane

Bunch O Balloons Inventor Wins Infringement Case

Josh Malone, the inventor of Bunch O Balloons, won a $12.3 million judgement against Telebrands’ recently. Josh’s patents were challenged at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and were found to be invalid. However, the Eastern District of Texas found that the patents were valid and also found Telebrands’ and others had willfully infringed the patents owned by Tinnus Enterprises and Zuru that cover the toy, Bunch O Balloons. Zulu and Tinnus are now looking forward to enhanced damages since the jury found willful infringement by Telebrands’.

Another patent used to protect the invention of Malone was challenged by Telebrands’, but the PTAB did not grant the petition for hearing since the same issues and the same prior art had been reviewed by the examiner in the application for patent. This may show that the tide is starting to turn in favor of the inventor in further reviews of patents in this on-going battle.

ByCarolyn Keane

The Most Iconic (and Patented) Games

By Gene Quinn & Renee C. Quinn Dec 24, 2017

Christmas 2017 is upon us! Children worldwide will soon be comfortably tucked into their beds as they anxiously await the arrival of Santa Claus (a.k.a. Kris Kingle). This is a great time of the year to be young, or at least young at heart!

Several years ago we profiled the Top 10 Iconic (and Patented) Toys in our Christmas Eve edition. This year we decided to profile the most iconic and patented games, many of which are still likely to be found waiting for good little girls and boys under the Christmas tree. Profiled are Monopoly®, Rubik’s Cube, Battleship, and Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Twister and Simon.

We also want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for reading!



Monopoly patentIn 1935 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued U.S. Patent No. 2,026,082 on Monopoly®, one of the most successful and beloved board games of all time.

As the story goes, Charles Darrow, an unemployed salesman, was struggling to support his family during the Great Depression. It was during this time that he claimed to have fondly remembered summers in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and dreamed about being a real estate mogul. These diversions purportedly lead to him formulating what has become the most popular board game of all time – Monopoly®.

Darrow felt certain he had a hit on his hands so he contacted Parker Brothers, who initially turned him down, but only after explaining that his game violated some 52 fundamental rules of a board successful game. Undeterred, Darrow marketed the game himself. As fate would have it, a friend of Sally Barton, the daughter of Park Brothers’ founder, George Parker, bought the game. At the time Mrs. Barton’s husband was the President of Parker Brothers. One thing lead to another and eventually Parker Brothers became convinced that this game, with minor modifications, could be a huge success. As a result of his invention Darrow became the first millionaire game inventor, thanks to royalty payments.

The irony, however, is that Darrow may not have invented the game at all, but rather he may have taken a locally popular game and made only a few changes. By the time Parker Brothers realized that Darrow might not have been the true inventor the game was already a huge success. To protect the game and its investment the decision was made to buy up all patents and copyrights on any related game, thereby ensuring the monopoly on Monopoly®.


Rubik’s Cube

One of the most popular games of the 1980s was the Rubik’s Cube, a puzzle game that proved enormously frustrating to many who attempted to unlock its solution.

Invented in 1974 by Hungarian inventor Ern? Rubik, the device was patented in the United States with the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 4,378,116 on March 29, 1983, with the title Spatial logical toy.

On a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine stickers, each of one of six colors: white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. See WikipediaA Rubik’s Cube craze captured worldwide attention in the 1980s, with tournaments and even the Guinness Book of World Records recognizing the fastest attempts to solve the puzzle.

Today the Rubik’s Cube has been a part of pop culture for decades, and has once again gained a new following with over 40,000 YouTube pages dedicated to the puzzle game.



BattleshipAnother long time favorite game is BattleshipU.S. Patent No. 1,988,301 was issued on January 15, 1935 under the title Game board, the originally patented game does not bear a lot of resemblance to the one that many of us grew up playing.

The patent explains that the invention relates to a perforated game board and pins insertable in the perforations. Although the patent explains that this perforated game board could be used for number of different games, the game we know as Battleship is described.

“The game herein illustrated as in progress might be called Battleships,” the patent reads. The game is described as requiring two players to sit facing each other. “One player, making use preferably of some erasable marking means, such as chalk, places an enclosure or line around a number of arbitrarily chosen series of perforations in groups of 4 (representing a battleship), in groups of 3 (a cruiser). The patent explains that play will go back and forth with each player calling out shots at the unseen target created by the other player. “Play continues thus and when one of the series of perforations within an enclosure has been filled with pins, that ‘ship’ is ‘sunk’.”


Rock’em Sock’em Robots

Rock'em Sock'em RobotsU.S. Patent No. 3,235,259, titled Toy boxers, was issued on February 15, 1966. The patent explains: “It is the primary object of this invention to provide a new and amusing toy in the form of a novel boxing game manually operated by opposing players.” Inventors Marvin Glass, Harry Disko and Burton Meyer, assigned the patent to Marvin Glass & Associates, and the first version of the Rock’em Sock’em Robots game was manufactured by Louis Marx and Company in 1964.

Rock’em Sock’em Robots was a game of battling robots, with each player trying to knock the others head off the block. The Red Rocker and the Blue Bomber would battle it out inside the ring.

Designed for two players, this boxing game required each player to a robot by operating the mechanism with his or her thumbs.




Twister has to make this list just because of the patent art on display in Fig. 3 (to the left) alone.

Invented by Charles Foley and Neil Rabens, and assigned to Milton Bradley Company, U.S. Patent No. 3,454,279, titled Apparatus for playing a game wherein the players constitute the game pieces, was patented on July 8, 1969. The patent explains: “The invention relates to a method of and equipment for playing a game of skill and chance for amusement and exercise purposes.”

The game is played with a playing surface the size of a large blanket, which has “a plurality of columns of loci, said loci being of such size and so spaces as to enable the players to place a hand or a foot on any designated locus, the columns of loci being different colors…” Don’t you just love the way patent attorneys write?

A “chance device” such as a spinner is included with the game. Someone not playing (i.e., a referee) will spin the wheel and call out a hand or foot with a corresponding color, which requires the players to twist and contort themselves in order to place the appropriate hand or foot on the color. The object of the game is to move into the appropriate position without falling. If a player falls or touches an elbow or knee to the surface the game is over and the other player declared the winner.



Ralph Baer, Hall of Fame inventor of the video console, was also the co-inventor of this extraordinarily popular, frustrating, and fun game. Baer, along with co-inventor Howard Morrison, invented this electronic game in the late 1970s, and launched in 1978.

U.S. Design Patent No. D253,786 was issued on Christmas Day 1979 (Fig. 1 of the patent shown left). While that might seem odd to many, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issues patents every Tuesday, and December 25, 1979 happened to be a Tuesday. Obviously, all the work to allow the patent to be done was complete well in advance. In the U.S. a patent is not officially issued until it is published, which occurred on Christmas Day 1979.

For those not familiar with this iconic game, the device is made up of four colored buttons, which light in a series. The player must repeat the sequence correctly once the lights stop. Each time the player successfully completes the correct sequence the sequence becomes longer, and as the player continues the sequence gets faster and faster. This game can still be purchased today, but the new age Simon Optix seems more virtual reality headset than anything else. In an attempt to keep the game fresh for the next generation you wear the headset and wave your hand in front of the proper color in sequence. Other varieties of this classic game include the Simon Swipe and Simon Air.


ByCarolyn Keane

San Diego Inventors Forum – Speed Pitch Application




San Diego Inventors Forum


EVENT:  Thursday, February 8, 2018, 10:30am



Cell Phone:


Name of Product:

Short (3 line) Description of Product:

Website (if applicable):

Image (include in body of the email only)


  • Prototype or final product available to present
  • Consumer product
  • Reach a mass audience (Please know statistics on the size of potential audience)
  • Can retail from $9.99 – $39.99
  • Demonstrable — WOW demonstration
  • Easy to understand
  • New product that is not on the market
  • Short, two-minute pitch

Please send your application to:

Subject Line Must Read:  February 8, 2018 San Diego Inventors Forum Pitch


ByCarolyn Keane

Families, Invent Away! Frito-Lay Announces Return of “Dreamvention” to Find the Next Best Invention Idea

Actress Cobie Smulders Teams Up with Frito-Lay Variety Packs to Inspire Families to “Dreamvent” Together for $250,000 Grand Prize

Frito-Lay Partners with STEM-Focused Museums to Offer Free Admission and Help Spark Creativity

PLANO, TexasDec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Families that play together can invent together. Frito-Lay Variety Packs, one of the flagship brands from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, is calling on families to dream big in the second year of its “Dreamvention” program and submit ideas to solve an everyday problem for a chance to win $250,000. Frito-Lay, which initially created Dreamvention after seeing so much ingenuity from families in their daily lives — from big inventions to daily life hacks — is bringing the program back after receiving thousands of creative ideas in its first campaign. After all, Frito-Lay Variety Packs believes that if you can dream, you can invent. Families can submit invention ideas and learn more about the program starting now at

Cobie Smulders, a mom of two young children who knows the importance of spending meaningful time with family and making each moment count, is helping Frito-Lay encourage families to brainstorm invention ideas together. Smulders, best known for roles such as Robin Scherbatsky from “How I Met Your Mother” and Maria Hill from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has long had a passion for creativity and scientific endeavors — she was even an aspiring marine biologist in her youth before she pursued acting full time.

“As a mom of two kids, we’re always making really weird stuff together!” said Smulders. “It’s really cool to join them on these projects and help them with their imagination. That’s why I admire the Dreamvention program, because it gives families a platform to showcase their creativity, hard work and determination. I can’t think of a better way for families to spend time together than by encouraging each other to dream big.”

To spark creativity for Dreamvention, Smulders and Frito-Lay are partnering with four STEM-focused museums across the country to offer families free admission between December and February, with Smulders helping kick off the first event today at the New York Hall of Science. Families will get hands-on Dreamvention experiences to inspire their own invention ideas to submit online. To see the museum schedule, visit

About Dreamvention
Earlier this year, Frito-Lay Variety Packs announced the inaugural “Dreamvention” contest where thousands of creative inventions were submitted by aspiring entrepreneurs from coast to coast. These imaginative and practical inventions were narrowed down to five finalists and an eventual $250,000 grand prize winner, including:

  • Maria DeLong from Brownsburg, Ind., who submitted “Pleasant Awakening” (finalist)
  • Anna Kreager from Cedar Park, Texas, who submitted “Chalkers” (finalist)
  • Julia Luetje from Leawood, Kansas, who submitted “Storm Sleeper” (finalist)
  • Grace Murphy from Needham, Mass., who submitted “Shoe Purse” (finalist)
  • Andrew Young from Batavia, New York, who submitted “Toaster Shooter” (winner)

All of these ideas were brought to life for the finalists to experience, with the help of MAKO Designs + Invent, a full-service consumer product development firm, through official prototypes of their inventions. Families can see the prototypes at the museum stops between December and February.

“This year’s competition was fueled by the passion and creativity that aspiring entrepreneurs brought throughout the contest, proving that if you can dream, you can invent,” said Jeannie Cho, Vice President of Marketing, Frito-Lay North America. “We are pleased to announce next year’s competition to keep this celebration of innovation and family connection going.  And we’re looking forward to what families will ‘dreamvent’ together next as they work to bring their best ideas to life.”

About the Contest
Families can participate by thinking up a fun invention idea, creating a simple drawing and short explanation of it and uploading both1 to starting now through February 26, 2018 for a chance to win. Five finalists will be announced in October 2018 at which point Frito-Lay will pass the baton to America to vote for its favorite Dreamvention. The winning invention, based on votes, will be announced in December 2018.

Here are a few tips for how families can get started:

  1. Have a brainstorm with family and friends.
  2. Look at everyday things and think of a way to make it better.
  3. Think of an everyday problem you have and dream up a way to fix it!

You can also “Dreamvent” on-the-go! Frito-Lay Variety Pack features pre-portioned, single servings that can be taken with you wherever you go. Variety Packs include everyone’s favorite Frito-Lay snacks, such as Cheetos cheese flavored snacks, Doritos tortilla chips, Fritos corn snacks, Funyun’s onion flavored rings, Lay’s potato chips, Rold Gold pretzels, Smartfood popcorn, and SunChips multigrain snacks. Variety Packs are available at retail stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.69 – $13.99.

To submit an invention idea and to learn more about the contest and the official rules, please visit

For high-res images, broadcast-quality b-roll and other press materials about Dreamvention, please visit

ByCarolyn Keane

MIT’s Take on Entrepreneurship


Entrepreneurship and innovation are synonymous with MIT. Big thinkers from around the world come to MIT Sloan Executive Education to take advantage of our renowned faculty, research, and resources that can help turn their ideas into successful ventures or social impact.

We teamed up with Professor Bill Aulet of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship to assemble a collection of resources to help you get your venture off the ground. The Entrepreneurship Toolkit includes links to articles, a webinar, a 15% discount code, and other sources of business-building wisdom.

We hope these resources help ignite your entrepreneurial spark and guide your next steps. Click below and get the Took Kit


ByCarolyn Keane

Turning Your Patent into a Business: A Practical Guide to Equity Crowdfunding

By Irwin Stein & Adoram Shemesh
November 11, 2017

Once your patent has been awarded you may still need additional capital to turn that patent into a business. Fortunately it is not as difficult to find investors as you may think. Equity crowdfunding is on the path to surpass venture capital as the preferred way for start-ups and small businesses to raise capital.

In a nutshell, equity crowdfunding is the sale of equity (or debt) in your business directly to investors using an online platform instead of a stock brokerage firm.  It is also less expensive than hiring one. Although direct to investor funding over the internet has been around since the late 1990s, it came of age with the JOBS Act in 2012.

The JOBS Act provides for three regulations that govern distinct types of offerings. The offerings differ by how much money you can raise and from what type of investor you can raise it from.

Regulation A (Reg. A) permits offerings of up to $50 million dollars. This is a “registered” offering meaning that the company needs to file a registration statement and investor prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). An audit of the company’s books for the two most recent years is also required unless the company has been in operation for a shorter period of time.

There are two main benefits to an offering under Reg. A. The first is that you can solicit and obtain funds from any member of the general public including younger millennial investors. This might be a benefit to a company whose product is targeted to this audience, like a video game company or a company whose technology might interest younger consumers as opposed to baby-boomers.

The second benefit is that once the offering is complete, the shares you have registered are freely tradable in the public market including the NASDAQ or New York Stock Exchange. There are specific listing requirements for these markets, but companies that go through this process then have access to mainstream capital markets. Also if the company does well, the shares are liquid and can be sold by the insiders.

The downside of Reg. A offerings is that they are time consuming and expensive.  It can take 6 months or more for lawyers to prepare the paperwork and for the SEC to review, comment and approve an offering.  Legal and accounting fees alone can easily reach 6 figures.  There is also an annual audit and given that you will likely have thousands of small investors; you will probably need at least one employee to deal with investor relations.

There is also the cost of finding those thousands of investors. There have been several successful Reg. A campaigns that have raised $10 million or more. The upfront marketing costs for an agency to design and execute a campaign to reach those investors can also be substantial. If you are using Reg. A to raise $10 million or more, a budget of $250,000 or more would  be appropriate.

On the lower end of the scale is Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg.CF) which allows companies to raise up to $1,070,000 per year directly from the general public. There is no need for an audit if the raise is less than $107,000 and above that only a CPA review, not a full audit of the last two years is required. There is no SEC review process, just a filing.

Anyone can invest although investors of lesser means are limited to a total investment of $2200 or 5% of the lesser of the investor’s income or net worth within each calendar year.  It is not unusual for a company raising $1 million to have thousands of shareholders who put up $100 each.  As with Reg. A the legal and marketing costs can add up.

A Reg. CF offering must be made on a crowdfunding portal (website) which in turn must be registered with the SEC. At this time there are about 30 portals that have registered and some are better than others in terms of their visibility and reputation. Several specialize and only host offerings for companies involved in green energy or companies owned by women or minorities, etc.  Selecting the right website or portal can be crucial to your offering’s success.

Most companies find that the most cost-effective way for them to raise funds is Regulation D. Reg. D is an exemption from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws. It has been around since 1982 and today is an active $1.7 trillion per year market.  That is much more than traditional public offerings or venture capital.

Traditionally these private placements were sold through stock brokerage firms and many still are.  The firms and issuers were always limited to making these offerings only to people with whom they had a prior business relationship.  The JOBS Act changed that to allow issuers to advertise and solicit investments from accredited investors, those whose income is over $200,000 a year or possess over $1 million in assets outside of their primary residence.

The vast bulk of the money raised through equity crowdfunding is raised using Reg. D. As a practical matter the cost of preparing the legal paperwork is usually less than with either Reg. A or Reg. CF.

Accredited investors are presumed to be more sophisticated and the amount of information that needs to be provided is usually less. At the same time, they often ask more thorough questions before they invest.  The company will have to designate a knowledgeable person to help investors who want to kick the tires.

Accredited investors are relatively easy to reach and because they are taking a larger slice of each offering (often a $10,000 -$25,000 minimum investment) issuers need to reach out and connect with a far smaller group of potential investors. This substantially reduces the upfront marketing costs.

In sum, a Reg.A offering raising $5 -$10 million can cost several hundred thousand dollars whereas a Reg. D offering, raising the same amount, may cost less than $50,000.  You can use Reg. D for a $1 million raise as well and unlike Reg. CF if you get a good response you can accept more than $1 million to provide your business with some extra cash.

Unlike venture capital or angel investors with equity crowdfunding the company seeking funds controls the process and the terms. The hard part is to present to investors a better deal that will make yours a more attractive investment than the other offers they receive.

There are multiple ways to structure a Reg. D offering that provides investors with a good return on their investment. For patent backed ventures; a licensing, royalty or revenue sharing structure is often possible. That allows the company to structure the financing “off the balance sheet” in a way that the owners of the company retain ownership of 100% of the equity.

There is no way to sugar-coat the fact that 90% of start-ups fail. A study published by MIT last year suggested that the likelihood of growth is 35 times higher for firms that apply for patents. That fact is not lost on investors, but you may want to remind them of this fact when you are seeking their investment.

That is one of the reasons that I am working with PatentAngels, an IP-centric investment platform that is focused on Reg D offerings for companies with registered patent rights.  The IP aspect increases the level of certainty for investors, especially when making investments online and they may not be able to meet the management team in person as traditional VC’s do. Think about it, if you made an online investment in a company with multiple unknowns, would you rather know they at least have their technology patented?

I advise any company that is getting ready to start raising funds to take the following actions:

  1. Get dressed. By that I mean get your corporate books and financial statements in order.  Have your Board of Directors in place and make certain that they are people who have some experience to the business that you are in.
  2. Have a detailed business plan that is well researched. Any investor will discount your financial projections but that does not mean that your projections should not be based in reality.  Know your market, your customers and your competitors.
  3. Hire the right people.  Having a patent is great, but investors expect execution. You are going to need marketing and sales executives and a CFO.  Hire them or at least identify them so that investors can evaluate their skills and experience.
  4. Know how much money you need and be prepared to describe how you will spend it. A line item that says “general overhead” does not tell investors what they want to know.  If you need office or manufacturing space, you should have a good idea of how much space, where it will be located and how much it will cost.  You should be able to estimate how much each executive salary and benefits will cost and how many other employees you will need.
  5. Be prepared to mount an aggressive and focused marketing campaign to drive investors to your company. There is a big difference between a presentation that says “look at this great widget I patented” and one that says “look at this great patented business I am building!”

Equity crowdfunding has created a new, intelligent and efficient way for small companies to access the capital markets. If you have taken the time and expense to obtain a patent for your product, it is certainly worthy of your consideration.

ByCarolyn Keane

14 Incredible Inventions That Were Discovered By Accident

Sometimes the best inventions are discovered by accident.

One day in 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming returned to his lab in London after a two-week vacation to find that mold had developed on a contaminated staphylococcus culture plate. The scientist was searching for a “wonder drug” to cure a wide variety of diseases. A moldy Petri dish was not a part of the plan, but Fleming noticed the culture had prevented the growth of staphylococci. Further examination revealed penicillin, a powerful antibiotic that could be used to treat everything from tonsillitis to syphilis.

Sir Alexander Fleming’s careless mistake became one of the most important medical discoveries in history. Thanks to penicillin, the rate of death due to infectious disease is now 5% of what it was at the beginning of the 20th century.

What could you create?

What could you create?


Today’s infographic, from Broadbandwhatever, highlights some noteworthy accidental inventions in modern history and demonstrates that not all accidents are created equal.


The 1880s was the era of miracle elixirs and across America pharmacists were cooking up “cures” for every conceivable ailment. Atlanta-based pharmacist, John Pemberton, capitalized on the trend by selling a French Wine Coca concoction that was touted as a cure for headaches and nervous disorders. Pemberton’s business hit a speed bump in 1885, when Atlanta banned the sale of alcohol, so he omitted the wine and created a coca-based syrup that could be mixed with carbonated water and drank as a soda. He named this new “brain tonic” Coca-Cola.

Swiss engineer George de Mestral was out hunting in the Alps with his dog when he noticed burrs sticking to its fur. To satisfy his curiosity about what makes burrs so “sticky”, Mestral viewed one under a microscope and observed the tiny hooks that allow it to latch on to surfaces like fabric and fur. For years, Mestral experimented with a variety of textiles before arriving at a solution: Velcro, which he eventually patented. The technology was useful, but really began to take off in popularity when Apollo astronauts used Velcro to keep objects secure in orbit.

Next time you’re making breakfast, remember that Roy Plunkett is the reason you’re able flip pancake with ease. Long before CFCs became the environmental super-villain depleting the ozone layer, the chemist was aiming to create a new type of chlorofluorocarbon. One day, when Plunkett returned to a refrigeration chamber to check on an experiment, a canister that had contained gas had vanished leaving a few white flakes behind. Upon examining the mysterious substance, he realised it had a very high melting point and was very effective as a lubricant. Teflon was first used in military applications and is now famously applied to cookware around the world.