Invention Advice

Discussion in 'OnBoard Electronics & Controls' started by Bahama, Jun 16, 2010.

  1. kroberts
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    kroberts Senior Member

    Something nobody has mentioned yet is how to protect your idea as your idea. That's probably more valuable than a patent, as far as I'm concerned. Proving you had the idea originally gives you ammunition to prevent somebody else from patenting your idea.

    The only way I know of to do this is to have a lawyer involved on retainer. Doesn't have to be a patent lawyer or a fancy high priced guy.

    So what you do is this:
    1. Develop and document every part of your idea as best you can without talking to ANYONE about it.
    2. Make at least 3 copies of it.
    3. Take it to a reputable notary and have every copy notarized, and each copy goes into a US Mail (or your national equivalent) Certified Mail envelope, right in front of the notary, and is sealed.
    4. Send to:
      • Your lawyer, to be put in his secure vault.
      • You, to put in your secure vault.
      • To the patent attorney/patent office, if you actually intend to patent it.
      • It makes sense to have more copies made, all sent through certified mail.
    5. Make sure that nobody who receives an envelope opens it.

    Certified mail is a legal and inexpensive mechanism to date an idea. If you truly had an original idea, then an unopened certified mail package (that was actually sent through the mail) proves that you had that idea on that date, and it's at whatever stage of development you've documented on that date. The notary says it came from you and serves as a witness. You better tell the notary what you're doing in advance.

    In order to get a patent, you must prove no prior art. Likewise if somebody tries to patent your idea and you have proof of prior art (a certified mail envelope containing the idea with a postmark) then they can't get the patent if they submitted their patent after your envelope was sent.

    Keep in mind that if it comes to a court, the package needs to be sent AND needs to be opened for the first time by the court, or at least in court-controlled and documented circumstances.

    I've never gotten a patent, but I know several people who have. Generally the only people who were happy with the results were those working for very large companies. IBM for example. Every (3 people) person who did it on his own basically lost control of the patent. I don't know how to defend the patent, only this little bit about how to prove prior art.

    Personally I think that a patent lawyer is automatically a thief. The first thing they'll likely do is make their own copy and submit the patent in the name of their 3-year-old nephew. Doing the part I said is important, but IMO once you start producing it and selling it, that's prior art too. I think that once you have some of them and have a prototype ready to sell, you can make a video of that and post it on youtube, and your name and where they can buy one. That also is prior art. But in order to get to that point you usually have to talk to somebody about it, which means my certified mail trick is still a good idea.
  2. Squidly-Diddly
    Joined: Sep 2007
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

  3. SheetWise
    Joined: Jul 2004
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    SheetWise All Beach -- No Water.

    You have to file everywhere -- but there are firms in the Netherlands that will do all of that for you. They have excellent treaties for IP around the world, and a separate court system for IP that actually understands it. If you're going to do licensing anywhere in the world, you want to do it out of the Netherlands and establish the jurisdiction there.
  4. WestVanHan
    Joined: Aug 2009
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    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    For 10 years I've been sitting on a working geared neutral/geared CVT transmission.
    I'd rather continue to sit on it then let someone else steal and profit from it.

    kroberts: what you posted is what I did.
  5. Bahama
    Joined: Jun 2010
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    Location: Minneapolis

    Bahama Junior Member

    1 person likes this.
  6. Bahama
    Joined: Jun 2010
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    Location: Minneapolis

    Bahama Junior Member


    I didn't know that; thanks I will start on that really soon. I know that a lot of people think they have the next big idea... seriously, I really did come up with something that's a better way to do it; it's simple and straight forward, it's one of those obvious things where someone would say, why didn't I think of that. And those are the best ideas... complex can break... genius is making complex simple. I just don't want to blow it, I'd like to make at least some money for them.

    Thank you for the note.
  7. kroberts
    Joined: Mar 2009
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    kroberts Senior Member

    Someone else's patent cannot be used to stop you... provided that you can prove you had a working copy before their patent was applied for.

    If there is no prior art, then essentially you have looked at their patent and copied it. Anyone can build a copy of a patented item, but you can't sell copies of the device patented without risking patent infringement, should the patent holder choose to and be able to protect that patent.

    That's what a patent is for: Protecting intellectual property rights of the owner for mass production.

    Proving you had your idea on a certain date, for example with the method I outlined in my first post, can enable you to sell your device even if there is a patent, providing that the postmark on the envelope predates the date of the patent. If your case goes to court, you can possibly invalidate their patent by producing one of the envelopes with your idea in it.
  8. Wavewacker
    Joined: Aug 2010
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    Wavewacker Senior Member

    Very good advice Sheet Wise and Ken. Your patent is a defensive measure. If you have a really great marketable invention expect to defend the ownership. Just because you obtain a patent, that should not give reason to bring your product to the public domain and general knowledge. It should remain confidential, although the patent is public notice, potential competitors generally don't have a staff sifting through new patents to see what they can steal. Depending on the difficulty of entrance in the market, your invention may have a small window to claim the market share. Your widget should be off the assembly line before your marketing department takes out TV commercials. Using non-disclosure agreements might help in keeping things quiet with engineering and support requirements, and don't forget the financial arena. Lose lips sink ships. Good luck with your venture.
  9. WickedGood

    WickedGood Guest

    What could you Possibley Turnip that has not been tried? i bet you cant Beet this invention! The Inventor stated out with a Bundle that he saved from his Celery and then invented until he developed a Radish and had to give it up. He is now a RudeBegger.

  10. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    If you really have an idea to copyright or patent, then the best advise you can get is to retain the finest lawyer possible and place them in a highly visible position. Having a patent or copyright is only as effective as your ability to defend potential infringements. If the inferred impression, from your company is the best possible lawyer up front, most infringements will go away with a few phone calls.
  11. DougCim
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    DougCim Junior Member

    What I have been told, by people who (as a result of research they did for their employers) have been through it:

    A patent is just a reason to sue, and suing costs money--often, even if you win. A lot of inventors have come up with a great idea, patented it, started making and selling it, and then spent all their profits PLUS gone into debt to try to prosecute infringers. Defending against Chinese infringers is almost impossible due to the nature of manufacturing there; businesses are highly specialized and only perform one step of making a product. An item can easily pass through a dozen different shops while being manufactured, and the investors who bankroll the product's production frequently change suppliers. You won't get much legal help there without dumping truly astonishing amounts of money into local law firms.

    When you start your business, you have a "profits" column that you keep for yourself, and you have a "legal fund" column that you give to your lawyer, and then never take money from your column and put it into the legal column. Any middling-size corporation can drag a patent lawsuit on for YEARS if they think you may have to forfeit due to running out of money to fight them.

    If a company starts infringing on your patent, contact them and offer to sell it to them. They will have already invested some money into gearing up for production, and that's the leeway you have for bargaining. They will offer to pay a one-time fee for all the rights to any granted patent; from a few hundred bucks to a few tens of thousands of $ for a truly industry-changing idea. If they re-sell it or make $10 million profit on it next year, you still get nothing more. Revenue-sharing deals (where you get a % of their profit from the item) are almost never done.
  12. latestarter
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    latestarter Senior Member

    Even when they are done there are ways round it.

    One method is for the company to sell the product at cost to another company in the same group, for the second to reap the profit.

    Another is to put the company into liquidation and sell the rights to the patent to a company also controlled by the directors of the first company.
  13. Doug Lord
    Joined: May 2009
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    Location: Cocoa, Florida

    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    Sorrow and Money and Trademarks...

    Don't forget the maintenance fees(extortion) that were instituted about the time I got my first patent:
    Maintenance fees on utility patents in the United States are due 3½, 7½ and 11½ years after grant of the patent. No maintenance fees are due while an application is pending.[19] Design patents and plant patents are not subject to maintenance fees at all.[20]
    Something to think about that can be real beneficial with or without a patent is a Trademark: I made more money on that then on a single patent. It can give you leverage.
    I think what it comes down to is preparation: if you're going to get patent coverage try to make sure that you can start making some money soon after you get the patent. Some may remember CBTF-Canting Ballast Twin Foil-it took those guys 8 years plus to get to a point they made even a little money and they were immediately ripped off by a New Zealand Syndicate! But, my own view is that patents are hardly worth it anymore......
  14. watchkeeper

    watchkeeper Previous Member

    One essential tool that no one has mentioned: before you discuss, display or demonstrate an original concept or potential business idea with any other party, request they sign a confidentiality agreement that binds them to a 'non disclosure of, acting on or replicating any of the information they are made privy' condition. Have a lawyer draft up the agreement and ensure it's binding in all states or country wide.
    With your concept so protected you can reveal limited information to legit investers if development finance is required.

  15. wardd
    Joined: Apr 2009
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    wardd Senior Member

    that's only good if you have more money
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