Can a Novel (and Useful) General Arrangement be Patented?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by TealTiger, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    I am an engineer and have several patents filed on my inventions by previouis employers, and I have investigated doing some of my own. As stated above, most patents are worthless, and can be even worse than useless since it could cost you a lot of time and money, and you still never see any profits from it.

    Most people misunderstand the purpose of having a patent, it certifies you as the owner of a "new and novel" idea or invention, up until someone can prove otherwise. IOW, it gives you grounds for a law suite against anyone that copies it, but it does not mean you will win. having the patent also means you must have resources to enforce it, or you will lose your claim of ownership. Even than, a cleaver lawyer will attempt to prove your patent is invalid, or his client's use of the idea is also "new and novel" and adds to your idea, and improves on it, so your design is not infringed upon, or some such nonsense. I have even had a firm copy my ideas, even the use the same terminology, and make "flyers" or ads with back dates on them, and than use that to threaten me to turn over my idea to them. A patent also has a limited life, so unless you plan on producing these things soon, it is best to keep your "idea" private until you are in a position to produce it, and have the resources to defend it should it prove popular and is copied.

    It is a costly process to get a patent, and takes deep pockets to defend and enforce it. so unless there is a big market and a demand for your idea, usually it is not worth patenting. there are these unscrupulous patent firms that review each new patent, and if it has potential for profits, will file a near identical patent with a few changes ('improvements'), and than market it to some big players to basically over run your resource to defend it. And if it enjoys a long production run, out last you until it is expired. If it does not make any money, they drop it and give it back to you, so you get a unprofitable idea back, after you spend big bucks with a law firm trying to stop them.

    Many important inventions never get patented, like the Weedeater. they trade marked the name, and copy righted the design, but keep it a secret until they were ready to introduce it big time, hot and heavy, with lots of adverting and sales promotions. Boom, it was in every lawn and garden store overnight. So they established the name and market before anyone could do any thing about it. It gave them one to two years lead over their competitors, who rushed to copy it, but spent the rest of their time playing catch up. meanwhile they kept introducing improvements every year or so, again staying a head of the competition. And than they lowered the price, making it less attractive to copy. By that time the patent would have expired anyway. A very cleaver plan, no legal expenses required at all. but it also took deep pockets.

    Personally I think a better way to protect your idea is to build one, or a model of one, and use it for yourself (take pictures with dates). That proves you the owner of the idea as of a certain date, which as good as any patent but does not publicly disclose it for others to copy and rip you off. If it is sufficiently useful, than you can patent shortly after you go into production. Effectively your patent is "pending", until you are ready to pay the fees and file a patent. you have one year from public disclosure (or product "roll out") to file the patent. and like any application, you can drag the approval process out for several years, effectively giving you more years of protection.

    Just make sure it is worth patenting, it is a very costly process, and the vast majority of the patents expire worthless, or worse.

    I have fought that costly fight several times, but now decided to avoid it since 1) it is not pleasant and life is too short for those fights, 2) I would rather spend my spare time doing other things like making or designing new inventions/ideas, 3) I have no desire run a manufacturing business (been there done that, earned many scares that way-never again). So I tinker with ideas, if they are small enough to build in my garage I will make one or two, use it and work out the design bugs or develop it further. Than use it and enjoy it, should I happen to get friendly with a trustworthy person who has a company that makes such products, after I get to know them, I might share the idea with them. (you have to learn how to locate such people and schooze them for this to work, get their attention some other way in a social setting). If we work something out, than we file the patent (and I let them pay the expenses, after we work out a fair royalty). If they are trustworthy, and they think they can make money with the idea, we can usually work out a fair royalty, or just a buy-out price (I sell them ownership of the idea and than they do not have to share their finances with me). I have done this a few times, almost none have ever paid off, so my inclination is to just accept an outright sale of the idea and let them try and make money with it. This also leaves me in a friendly relationship with a company that makes such products, so possible future product ideas they will consider, that may eventually pay off. So I get all of the creative fun developing a new idea or product, and have none of the production or legal headaches (that is best left to experts, which I have learned the hard way, that is NOT ME).

    It is not a perfect system, it is costly and there are many hungry lawyers ready to take your money, no matter the merits nor size of the market for your ideas. Very very rarely do independent inventors ever have anything pay off. Your chances are much better if you have "hardware" to test, and show, and you develop relationships with companies that can use such ideas. And have none of the legal expense for it. If they are not trustworthy, than they will rip you off no matter if you have a patent or not. I even worked for such an employer once (not for very long). the owner would bring in a patent that he liked, and ask me, as their design engineer, to "find a way around this patent" and than design one for them to make. When I diplomatically asked what about the patent holder's rights to his invention, and what he might do, I was told "there is nothing he can do about it".

    good luck.
     
  2. tom kane
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    tom kane Senior Member

    Hi NavalSArtichoke. My post # 9 was based on research and information in the book "The Man who invented the computer " by Jane Smiley 2010 historical biography about American physcist John Vincent Atanasoff.
    I agree with Petros Patent Attorneys and the likes do not tell you the very important things untill you have spent a lot of money.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  3. portacruise
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    portacruise Senior Member

    Petros:

    Thank you for taking the time to make such a detailed posting!

    I hope you can suffer some supportive comments in your post below.

    PC

     
  4. TealTiger
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi portacruise,
    I'm sorry I missed your post originally.
    I appreciate your input.
    Thank you.
     
  5. TealTiger
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi DCockey,
    I appreciate your clarification.
    Thank you.
     
  6. TealTiger
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi Petros,
    I appreciate your helpful input.
    Thank you.
     
  7. TealTiger
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi again portacruise,
    I appreciate your kind wishes.
    Thank you.
     
  8. WecBoat
    Joined: Jul 2014
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    WecBoat Navy Blue

    For Canada it is good to start by : http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr03652.html

    Is your invention patentable?

    In order to be patentable, your invention must show novelty, utility, and ingenuity.

    Novelty: To be granted a patent, you must be the original inventor of your door lock (or the assignee of the inventor), and the door lock must be the first of its kind in the world.

    Utility: A valid patent cannot be obtained for something that does not work, or that has no useful function. If your door lock doesn't work, it will fail the utility test.

    Ingenuity: To be patentable, your invention must be a development or an improvement of an existing technology that would not have been obvious beforehand to a person of ordinary skill in the technology involved. Your door lock must make other designers in the field say, "Why didn't I think of that"?

    You may obtain a patent for an improvement to an existing invention, but keep in mind that the original patent may still be in force. If this is the case, manufacturing or marketing the product with your improvement would probably be an infringement. This situation is often resolved by agreement between the patentees to grant licences to each other.
     
  9. TealTiger
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi WecBoat,
    I appreciate your input an am checking into in now.
    Thank you.
     
  10. John Perry
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    John Perry Senior Member

    It happens that I am one of the relatively few people, other than lawyers, who has made significant money by taking out a patent. (significant at least from the perspective of an impoverished engineer that is!) Even so, the experience overall left me feeling that I would probably not want to try it again.

    My experience was many years ago, and is now probably out of date, but my recollection is that a patent needs to have a single 'inventive step' that forms the basis of the principle claim. Interestingly, there must be only one 'inventive step' - if there should be more than one then you need more than one patent. As defined earlier in this thread, a General Arrangement in the boat design field is an arrangement of individual items in space (e.g. cabins, machinery spaces, galley(s) etc.) These individual items are found in many existing vessels, so the only thing that might conceivably be novel is the way they are arranged in space and my guess is that this could not be considered an inventive step - it is simply a choice of relative positions. Anyone experienced in the field could achieve the same arrangement simply by juggling items around on a drawing. Novelty alone is not always enough. But I am no expert and any knowledge I may have could well be outdated.

    Another point to bear in mind is that there are a huge number of patents that are valid only because no one has ever bothered to challenge them, in many cases because they are not worth challenging. This is certainly true in areas such as mechanical engineering and indeed boat design, perhaps it is different in the pharmaceuticals industry where it seems that patents can still sometimes have huge value.
     
  11. portacruise
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    portacruise Senior Member

    Seems the patent granted for the pet rock which made millions in the US, would not have been granted in Canada?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_Rock

    Here's an interesting pharmaceutical patent given despite a seeming conflict of interest and official stance against development:

    http://patients4medicalmarijuana.wo...ernment-holds-a-patent-for-medical-marijuana/

    PC
     
  12. TealTiger
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi John Perry,
    I appreciate your input.
    Thank you.
     
  13. TealTiger
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi again portacruise,
    I appreciate your interesting input.
    Thank you.
     
  14. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    SamSam Senior Member

    Patents are expensive to get and maintain. With a lawyer it will cost $5-10,000, plus periodic 'maintenance' fees every few years of hundreds or thousands more. I was told it would be a minimum of $250,000 to defend a patent in court with a 90% chance of loosing. I came to think the main advantage of a patent was acquiring the ability to sue others for infringement on yours, with the hope that, right or wrong, they will quickly settle out of court, as it is cheaper than going to court.

    There are mainly two parts to patenting, a patent search for prior art and the patent itself with its drawings, explanations and claims.

    There is this book which is very good
    http://www.nolo.com/products/patent-it-yourself-pat.html
    probably at most libraries.

    There is another one (I don't remember the name) about filing by yourself that uses the government requirement to have to help individual inventors to big advantage. The guys system in both parts was to do his own minimal patent search and then draw up a barely adequate patent. The patent office, in their adversarial position, will then do their own patent search to try and disprove your patent. They are very good at searching patents. If they come up with something you have to either disprove their prior art, design around it or limit the scope and claims of your patent application. All of which they are required to help you do, for free. You get 2 or 3 meetings and chances to adjust your patent before there is a final ruling.

    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/patent-law

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061212184215AACzqTe

    .
     

  15. TealTiger
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    TealTiger Junior Member

    Hi SamSam,
    I appreciate your helpful input.
    I'd actually read a couple versions of Nolo’s Patent It Yourself and know most of what's been posted and more.
    PAR's suggestion of Copyright was useful, though, and I’ve begun reading Nolo's Copyright Handbook.
    I'm already corresponding with a potential licensee.
    Thank you.
     
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