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   Patent an improvement to an existing process
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Kelley Bachman
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Patent an improvement to an existing process
« on: May 11th, 2004, 12:55pm »
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I have been searching high and low for information that my determine whether I should continue my "patent-it-yourself" research.
 
I am looking for a very straight-forward answer to this hypothetical queston:  Can one patent a process that is made possible by equipment that has been sold and/or been made public for more than one year?
 
This equipment I speak of can perform a number of processes (not just the one/s which I'm looking to patent).   The equipment has been made public and sold, but only one process has been made public.  Technically, I was wondering if it could be argued that only the equipment has been previously sold and/or made public, not the actual process (or any variety of potential processes).   Furthermore, there have been significant (non-obvious) improvements that have been discovered recently and have not been made public or sold as of yet.  
 
If patenting these new improvements possible, how can I do it broadly (to include several similar processes) but also narrow enough so as not to include the old process that has been made public (thus violating the one-year rule)?  
 
I will certianly appreciate any advice as I am a newbie and have no training regarding patents.
 
Thanks a bunch,
Kelley
 
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JimIvey
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Re: Patent an improvement to an existing process
« Reply #1 on: May 11th, 2004, 1:53pm »
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on May 11th, 2004, 12:55pm, Kelley Bachman wrote:
I am looking for a very straight-forward answer to this hypothetical queston:  Can one patent a process that is made possible by equipment that has been sold and/or been made public for more than one year?

 
Here ya go: Yes.
 
The bottom line is not whether the used equipment is known for a year but whether the claimed process is known.  To cover the issue of obviousness, the process shouldn't be obvious either, or (more importantly here) suggested by the equipment itself.
 
Here's an example I learned from Steve Shear of Silicon Valley Seminars (I think google.com finds him readily if you like).  There was a patent pertaining to a little rubber thingy with many suction cups on it for lifting stencils (because it's hard to get your fingernail under them to lift them).  The cited prior art was the ubiquitous soup holder that was a small rubber disk with many suction cups above and below, so you can stick your soap anywhere with the suction cups.  
 
As products, they were more or less the same -- a flat surface substantially covered with suction cups.  The difference was the method of use.  Was it obvious to use the suction-cup soap dish to lift stencils off of paper?  I don't think so.  I don't think it was suggested by the product itself.  
 
on May 11th, 2004, 12:55pm, Kelley Bachman wrote:
If patenting these new improvements possible, how can I do it broadly (to include several similar processes) but also narrow enough so as not to include the old process that has been made public (thus violating the one-year rule)?

 
You're essentially asking for a quick answer on the whole of the art of claim drafting.  It took me 13 years to accumulate as much knowledge as I have about claim drafting.  I don't think I can fit it all here.  I don't even know where to begin.
 
One thing I would say is that you don't have to get it all into just one claim.  If you have to, you can capture classes of novel/non-obvious processes into mutliple claims.
 
So I guess I answered one of two questions.  Sorry I couldn't be more helpful with both.
 
Regards.
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LJP
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Re: Patent an improvement to an existing process
« Reply #2 on: May 12th, 2004, 4:06am »
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Hi Kelley,
 
A few things to keep in mind. Even if you get a patent on your process you may not be able to defend it. Using the soap dish analogy, what would stop someone from buying a soap dish to lift the stencils?
You also can't infringe on someone else's patent because you developed a new method, therefore, you may not be able to manufacture and sell the equipment to carry out your process.
 
Jim
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M. Arthur Auslander
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Re: Patent an improvement to an existing process
« Reply #3 on: May 12th, 2004, 8:20am »
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Dear Kelly Bachman,
 
Ivey has it right. You are out of you mind JUST getting a patent. The claims are what count and their breadth. If you have a good thing going, a commercial product, a stupid patent may be a scarecrown or of advertizing value.
 
If you don't care about being able to enforce your patent that is another thing. The law allows you to prosecute you own patent application. If you do it yourself it usually is likely not as good as what the scam artists get for you.
 
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If you have a real product, saving a few bucks could cost you millons. I'm not suggesting that you can make money with your patent.
 
I usually recommend a patent or patent application, where there is no breadth, to commerical clients and then have them cover themselves with a trademark.
 
I know about GOOD patents. My first partner patented the folded metal, fat and skinny polarzed elecric plug in you wall. Because of that a publisher got to know me and ask me to coauthor a book on chemical patents. that my second partner wrote.
 
I have met only one inventor that I felt had the skills to get GOOD claims in a patent that he did himself. I'm not suggesting that you can't work miracles, I'm suggesting that I don.t think you can.
« Last Edit: May 12th, 2004, 8:27am by M. Arthur Auslander » IP Logged

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Kelley Bachman
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Re: Patent an improvement to an existing process
« Reply #4 on: May 12th, 2004, 12:41pm »
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Thank you guys for responding so soon, I really appreciate it.
 
I'm pretty certian the process/method would not infringe on any one else's patent, I am more concerned about not violating the one year rule.  
 
So, I can try to patent a very broad process which may include (because of it's breadth) some specific processes that have already been made public?  Do I have to specifically exclude from my claims any process which might generally be related to previously publicised processes?  
 
For example:  You have a process that works.   You don't know why it works or how it works.  You formulate a specific, rigid series of steps which reproduce results consistantly.  You later learn how and why the process works and as such you can apply it to a wider variety of situations and adapt it to different circumstances.
 
The rigid steps were made public over a year ago.  The how and why it works has only recently been discovered.  
 
Can a patent be applied for, using broad and explicit claims, even if the claims overlap the previous 'reason unknown' steps?  This is very complicated and I am having a hard time trying to explain exactly what I mean, but I think you'll get the gist.
 
I've read the patents which apply to the area that I am interested in, and the majority of them are very simplistic and spartan, yet were granted by the USPTO.  I am hopeful that I will be granted a patent as well.
 
Thank you again,
Kelley
 
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