Tag Archive:inventing

ByCarolyn Keane

The Inventors’s Dilemma: Drafting Your Own Patent Application When You Lack Funds

By Gene Quinn
October 22, 2016

financial crisis dollar on a white backgroundFrequently inventors are faced with a dilemma that is all too common for entrepreneurs. Generally speaking, most will bootstrap a project, whether it is an invention or start-up. That means long hours working without compensation, without revenue and not enough money to do everything that really needs to be done in a perfect world. Lack of funding presents great challenges.

The first entrepreneurs’ dilemma that inventors typically face is with respect to whether to hire a patent practitioner or to simply go it alone and prepare and file a patent application. Obviously, if you can afford competent legal representation that would be the best path to take, but entrepreneurs, and inventors, rarely have the funds available to do everything that really needs to be done. Thus, corners sometimes need to be cut. That is just the nature of business.

The problem with cutting corners in the patent space is that there are so many pitfalls lurking around nearly every corner. Indeed, representing yourself can be a little like taking out your own appendix. If you have acute appendicitis and you are hiking in the mountains many hours away from the nearest hospital taking out your own appendix looks like a much better option all of the sudden given the alternatives. But ordinarily you wouldn’t dream of removing your own appendix. Similarly, if possible you really shouldn’t be representing yourself as you seek a patent. There will be times, however, when it is either do at least some of the work yourself or the project just can’t move forward.

Not surprisingly, many inventors faced with this entrepreneurs’ dilemma will decide to proceed on their own, at least initially. That is a perfectly fine choice, but it needs to be done with eyes wide open. It also requires the do-it-yourself inventor to become as knowledgeable and familiar with the process of describing an invention and drafting a patent application as possible.

The problem with cutting corners in the patent space is that there are so many pitfalls lurking around nearly every corner. Indeed, representing yourself can be a little like taking out your own appendix. If you have acute appendicitis and you are hiking in the mountains many hours away from the nearest hospital taking out your own appendix looks like a much better option all of the sudden given the alternatives. But ordinarily you wouldn’t dream of removing your own appendix. Similarly, if possible you really shouldn’t be representing yourself as you seek a patent. There will be times, however, when it is either do at least some of the work yourself or the project just can’t move forward.

  1. What are functions or features that consumers will identify as an advantage?
  2. Are those functions or features likely to be patentable or contribute to the patentability of your invention?
  3. What other solutions currently exist that consumers could identify as substitutes for your invention?
  4. What patents or published applications exist that relate to your invention? If there are patents are they in force or have they expired?

These questions are critical because they will start to get you thinking about your invention in a different way; in a way that most inventors are unaccustomed to thinking. The truth is that with any invention there will be pieces, parts, features, functions or characteristics that are more likely than others to contribute to patentability. A patent attorney would need to identify what those features are, so you should as well. Inventors absolutely must start with identifying the patentable feature. Only then can you really ever determine whether moving forward with a patent application makes sense.

For example, it might be interesting that your new widget is the first of its kind to be painted yellow, but will painting it yellow contribute to the patent examiner believing you’ve invented something worthy of a patent? No. What you need to do is identify the inventive concept and decide whether that is enough to warrant the time investment and cost associated with obtaining a patent. Hopefully that inventive concept will be something that consumers will identify as an advantage. Remember, obtaining a patent costs money so the only way it will make sense is for you to be able to charge a premium for your product or service. If you patent something that consumers do not perceive as an advantage that usually winds up being a poor business decision in the long run.

In addition to focusing on the core of what makes the invention unique, which will hopefully be perceived as an advantage, you need to know what else is available on the market, and what else has been patented or attempted to be patented. For you to get a patent your invention must be unique when compared with the prior art (i.e., that which is known, such as those things available on the market, patented or published in patent applications). You simply cannot know whether what you have is unique unless you compare it to what is known to exist. That means you absolutely must know what previously exists and then compare it to your invention. This means you are going to need a patent search. While it makes sense to do your own search it is generally the case thatinventors find little even when there are volumes of relevant information to be found, so a professional patent search can be a very worthwhile investment even if you are going to otherwise attempt to do the rest of it (or much of the rest of it) yourself.
The last critical thing from the list above deals with whether any previously issued patents that relate to inventions that address the same problem have expired. This is an absolutely critical consideration because once a patent expires the invention and all obvious variations of the invention fall into the public domain. When a patented invention falls into the public domain anyone could use that invention or any obvious variation of the invention for free. It can be very difficult to compete against free unless what you’ve come up with provides a significant advantage. Therefore, it is important to not only consider the existence of the prior art, but it is critical to consider whether there is prior art that is too close that has now fallen into the public domain and is freely available. Potential licensees will consider this, and so should you. It can be a major hurdle to a business deal, which means it is better to know up front rather than after you’ve invested large amounts of time and money.

For those who are going to go it alone I’ve created a self-help system – The Invent + Patent System™ – which has helped many thousands of inventors create provisional patent applications. Even if you wind up deciding to hire a patent attorney using this system can and will help you create a much more detailed disclosure of your invention, and get you to think about things you undoubtedly never would have thought about otherwise. If you are going to go it alone I strongly recommend you consider using it, but frankly any inventor could benefit from using the system. I also recommend you do as much reading on IPWatchdog.com as possible, focusing on those articles that relate to completely describing your invention in a patent application. Specifically, at a minimum I recommend the following articles:

Each of these articles mentions and links to other articles, so please read as much as you can. If you are brand new to the subject you might find it most easy to start with Invention to Patent 101 – Everything You Need to Know to Get Started, which is a tutorial broken down into discrete reading assignments that start with the basics and get more and more complex as your knowledge progresses.

Best of luck, and happy inventing!

Before you decide to embark on the path of preparing your own patent application, even a provisional patent application, there are a few questions about your invention you really need to consider. Ultimately, whether you decide to go it alone and do-it-yourself or you hire a patent professional, having this information at the ready will greatly facilitate the process.

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ByCarolyn Keane

How to Submit Ideas to Companies “Think” Before You Send – by Roger Brown

Contacting companies for the first time can be scary and uncertain for Inventors. You want to do it right and get the company interested in your product and see it on store shelves. My invention submissions have resulted in licensing deals in toys, tools, eyeglass products, kitchen utensils, and even a device used in the nuclear industry. I did it spending less than $100 on each and some as little as $8. I utilized an NDA and Sell Sheet only, no patent or PPA. My major investment has been my time.

I have been a serial Inventor, a licensing agent and reviewed thousands of Inventor’s products. In short, I see and hear all sides of the inventing process. What I’ve discovered is sometimes inventors can be their own worst enemies. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting pitches or new products to companies that can help you make a better first impression:

1. Don’t send hand-written submissions. Even if you don’t own a computer most libraries have one you can use for free. If a library isn’t an option, go to a FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s). If you send your submission via snail mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Don’t assume your target company will pay postage.

2. Do put your contact information on each piece of paper you send. That includes samples and prototypes.

3. Don’t waste a product reviewer’s time detailing how you came up with your idea. Focus on the benefits of your product/technology and why it will make the company money. Companies don’t care if your second cousin twice removed worked on your project for two years once he got out of prison.

4. Don’t use the phrase, “My idea is worth millions.” Let the company decide that.

5. Don’t use the phrase, “There is nothing else out there like my idea.” Most of the time you will be wrong.

6. Don’t say you have researched your product idea thoroughly when all you did was walk into a Walmart and didn’t see it on the shelves.

7. Don’t use the phrase, “Everyone will buy one.” This gets back to being realistic about the size of your market. Know who the target customers are. (See Rule #6)

8. Don’t send a prototype to a company unless they asked you to and are expecting it. Companies do not want to keep track of or be responsible for items they did not request in the first place.

9. Do be realistic about your expectations. Understand licensing royalties usually are about 2% to 5%. Greed can kill an otherwise profitable deal.

10. Do read and re-read everything a company sends you to make sure you understand everything in the documents. Don’t assume everything is fine and sign it. I send people my two-page non-disclosure agreement to read and sign prior to sending me anything for review. I have to include in my email an explanation to make sure they fill in their address on the top of the first page, because so many people don’t do it. This is in the first two paragraphs of the first page. So, if they are missing that what else are they missing in a longer document?

11. Don’t write a novel to explain your invention. Be concise and factual. No one wants to read a novel to get your idea. Be able to explain your invention over the phone or in person in 30 seconds or less. Practice your pitch until you can say it in your sleep. Look at the short blurb on the back of a book. It gives you an overall idea of the 300 page book. Your pitch needs to be that short.

12. Make sure you know your product. You should be the expert on your product. Never assume companies will just “Get It.”

13. Don’t send your submission to a company on Monday and call Tuesday to ask when they will be sending you a contract.

14. Do your research before submitting anything to a company. Make sure your submission actually fits their target market. Don’t submit a lawnmower idea to a soap company.(this happens more than you think)

15. Don’t send your invention submission in care of the general bulk mail of a company. Get a specific person’s name in charge of that department – new product development, marketing, inventor submissions, inventor relations, etc. Don’t send “To Whom it may concern.” The most likely place it will find is the trash basket.

16. If you call a company asking for the person in charge of invention submissions, make sure you are ready if you’re put through. This is not the time to forget pen and paper or fumble your pitch. If you get voice mail, leave a short intelligent message with your call-back number.

17. Make sure you know the time zone difference of the location you are calling.

18. Don’t send a company any package that has special storage requirements, contains a live animal or flammable liquids. Real example: An Inventor sent his new food-sealing device with samples of food sealed inside. It was not opened until a week later, by security due to the smell of the leaking packages.

19. Don’t send a company anything you can’t afford to lose. Accidents happen and things can get misplaced. If it’s a one-of-a-kind item, you may want to send a DVD or link to a video showing the product in action. If you post it on Youtube and you have not filed for any patent protection make sure it is set on Private and not Public.

20. When sending email attachments to companies, do make sure it is in a program they have installed on their computers. Not everyone has Filemaker Pro or Microsoft Office 2016. Ask if the company has a size limit on attachments. Moreover, some software automatically kicks out any email with an attachment that is not on a safe email list.

The more you do upfront to make sure you are prepared the better your chances of success.

http://www.rogerbrown.net

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ByCarolyn Keane

Entrepreneurs Call to Action – Apply to Present at 2016 Florida VentureTech Showcase

Apply to present at the upcoming 2016 Florida VentureTech Showcase

at CAMLS (Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation), in downtown Tampa on November 1st from 1:30 P.M. – 6:00 P.M.

The showcase is a capital acceleration competition and business-networking event co-hosted by Space Florida and the Florida Venture Forum. The event will feature presentations by some of Florida’s most promising growth-stage companies. Additionally, a cross section of investors will be in attendance.  Troy Knauss, instructor, with the Angel Resource Institute, will be the special guest speaker!

Presenting companies will compete for the
Space Florida Accelerating Innovation Awardtotaling
$150,000!
$100,000 for the Winner and $50,000 for the 1st Runner Up!
Presenters will be chosen from a pool of applicants by a selection committee evaluating growth-stage companies from throughout the state of Florida.  Selection criteria for growth stage companies are listed on the Forum’s website. Selection preference will be given to those growth stage companies in information technology and health technology, knowledge-based services, space transportation and advanced aerospace platforms, satellite systems and science payloads, ground and operations support systems, agriculture, climate/environmental monitoring, civil protection and emergency management, International Space Station and human life science (including medical research), communications, cyber security & robotics, adventure tourism, clean /alternative energy applications, advanced materials and new products.
FINAL PRESENTER APPLICATION DEADLINE:
Friday, October 14, 2016
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ByCarolyn Keane

So You Have an Idea, Now What Do You Do?

You have, what you think, is a fantastic idea that will make millions and be perfect for Shark Tank but you don’t know what to do or where to start. Here is a list of the first things to do:

  • Check stores for similar items
  • Check the internet for ideas or products like yours.
  • Check the www.USPTO.gov – United States Patent & Trademark Office
  • Check google Search Words. How many hits show up?
  • Find an NDA – Non-Disclosure Agreement and use it.
  • Do surveys – SurveyMonkey.com is free. You can do a survey without  telling your idea.
  • Identify target market group – it might not be who you think
  • Call SCORE – Senior Core of Retired Executives for free advice
  • Look for Inventor Clubs in your area. There is a list under Resources on  InventingDaily.com/InventorClubs
  • Do a Patent Search – If you have never done one, here is our gift to you – a   free class to learn how to do a patent search.
  • DIY-PATENT-SEARCH
  • Attend trade shows to see new products
  • Start to collect data for cost estimates
  • Call Inventing Daily for help @561-231-0298 or contact us at http://inventingdaily.com/coaching/ ‎

 

After starting the process, you will see that there is a lot to do before you spend money on a patent or on prototypes.  There is help available and it will take time.   Just Keep Inventing Daily!

 

 

 

 

 

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