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   Author  Topic: Lots of "Patent Professionals" Advice...  (Read 4162 times)
ValueProducts
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Re: Lots of "Patent Professionals" Advic
« Reply #20 on: Sep 12th, 2005, 6:10am »
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Issac,
 
Wow this thing is annoying.  If you post a "too long" reply, it deletes it.
 
Yes, Jim does seem to be slipping into a bit of vituperation.  Not sure why that is.
 
Anyway,  I have no idea of the frequency.  A gut-level (yes, I know how Jim will react to my not paying an attorney to determine this...but attorney's know law, not marketing, is my understanding) tells me that a walk down the low-end consumer products aisle at Wally Mart will show that probably fewer than 20% of the "new" items for sale are patented.  I may not be an attorney, but I can figure out that at least SOME of these were not "invented" by that stable of "inventors" on staff at XYZ Consumer Products, Inc., but came in through their transom, unpatented.
 
The sticking points (strawmen) Jim seems unable to get around are these: What is being developed and to whom is it being pitched.
 
What: Again, I am not talking about that engine that runs on water.  For an example of what I AM discussing, visit your local Walgreens (right across from Starbucks, usually) and browse the low-end items for sale around the cash registers.  Some WILL, by the by, be patented/pending.  Most will not.
 
Who: I am not suggesting anyone take anything they have developed to the Xixang International Corp. in China.  Of COURSE your risk of being taken for a ride rises exponentially the further offshore you get from the US/Canada.  Nor should you peddle it to Vinny, who sells watches out of his trunk down on 3rd and Main.  But you are relatively safe making inquiries to large, establish manufacturer's of such stuff in the US and Canada.  As you point out, we are a litigious society.  Is this a gamble?  Sure, but so is getting out of bed in the morning.  And just about anything worth doing is an uphill climb.  Will SOME products be ripped off?  Yep.  But these are so few and far between, their stories are legends.
 
I tend to disbelieve the idea that that every inventor clutching a patent in his sweaty hand has been welcomed with open arms--and checkbooks--by every manufacturer he or she has ever approached.  This strikes me as unlikely, and unless the "inventor" is 99.999% certain that his invention is the next pet rock, I am not sure he or she should approach the market with this attitude.  
 
This is the point Jim seems . . . reluctant to address.  Yes, a patent protects the development from being poached.  He admits that it certainly does not ensure the product's marketplace success.  So, there seem to be risks either way: take it directly to the market, unpatented and live in quaking fear for a few weeks that some huge, established, legitimate firm operates by stealing, or get a $10,000 patent and live on pins and needles for 3-5 years that the product has not already been obsoleted AND that it is something the marketplace once.
 
Six of one, 30 tons of the other?  
 
Mike
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Re: Lots of "Patent Professionals" Advic
« Reply #21 on: Sep 12th, 2005, 6:43am »
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Richard:
 
Thanks for you input.
 
I may be confusing lots of thing; I am not confusing those two things.  Some, manufacturers are also marketers of their products.  One way they get such products--other than from contract inventors or their in-house stable of same, is from private, outside contractors.  Now, what you are talking about is semantics: contracting to "invent" is the same as paying me for my invention. Once again, the sticking issues seems to be a misunderstanding of how such companies OBTAIN new products and the misunderstanding of the market I am discussing.    
 
I am talking about presenting a "new" consumer product to a company that is in the business of either/or mfg'ing AND bringing such products to market, or marketing such products while THEY contract with an actual manufacturer to produce the product.  Frankly, I don't care about the nuts and bolts of the thing's manufacture, once I have sold (licensed) it to someone who is in either/both business.
 
Your second question seems to be tying patent professionals in here into knots.  What you, as a MANUFACTURER of such products is "buying" is a new product idea.  Ideas are sold all the time...look at books.  While the writer may produce the FIRST unit (prototype), he/she does not (normally) contract with a printer for a million of them, and THEN wheelbarrow them into Knopf to sell.  Ditto music.  P Diddy (or whatever he is called this week) did not start by pressing a million CDs and driving around to music stores with them (yes, this happens, but that's another story).  Or movie scripts. An "idea" for a new product is no different.  The argument that the patent professionals in here seem to be having trouble with is their belief that what is being sold is an already-secured patent on any/all of the literally millions of "new" products that enter the market in the US every year. No wonder it takes 5 years! Um, no.  
 
Retailers cannot sell a patent on their shelves.  A patent, coming in the door, would certainly comfort them. If it's for a $2.99 item that MIGHT sell 10,000 units over then next 3 years they might wonder at how stupid the inventor is, but they are in the business of selling things, not  worrying over that.
 
Of course, if one assumes, as does Jim, that every manufacturer/marketer of such products ONLY ever mfgs and markets either patented or stolen-idea products, I guess none of this makes a bit of sense.
 
I don't subscribe to that dark view.  I am no Pollyanna.  I know theft happens.  But not often.  And frankly, as I am not developing anything that would leave the Simon Lagree-like CEO of any such company drooling on his power tie, I am not convinced I need to be overly paranoid that it will be stolen.  
 
Might it be?  Sure.  And I might be hit in the head by a falling safe today.  It's a risk some are willing to take.  For me, it would be a far greater risk of time and treasure to spend 5 years and $10,000 getting my idea patented, or even 1 year and $1,200.  And therein lies the "argument." Jim is horrified by the thought of someone by-passing him (yes, yes, we all know Jim is very successful--that's not the point, is it? When people question the value of what I do in "real life" i get all protective of my profession, too! Here, I can be a bit less passionate) and failing to pay a lawyer to get something that may or may not be marketable patented.
 
If we are honest about it, that's what this comes down to: who is going to make money off the inventor.
 
Mike
 
 
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JSonnabend
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Re: Lots of "Patent Professionals" Advic
« Reply #22 on: Sep 12th, 2005, 8:21am »
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Quote:
If we are honest about it, that's what this comes down to: who is going to make money off the inventor.

No, that's not the inquiry at all.  A good patent attorney will advise clients to maximize the client's protection in a commercially reasonable manner.  By "taking" a client's money to seek commercially reasonable patent protection, a patent attorney actually seeks to enhance the value of an invention, thus potentially putting more money in the inventor's pocket, not less.
 
Do all patent applications pan out commercially?  The answer to that question is obvious, but like all business decisions, the decision to seek patent protection is merely a balancing of cost, risk and reward.  A patent is not a magical money making machine, and all patent attorneys worth their salt discuss this with clients at the outset.
 
My only question to Mike is this: you've mentioned "licensing" of non-patented "inventions".  What, precisely, would an inventor be "licensing"?
 
- Jeff
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Re: Lots of "Patent Professionals" Advic
« Reply #23 on: Sep 12th, 2005, 1:09pm »
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on Sep 12th, 2005, 8:21am, JSonnabend wrote:

No, that's not the inquiry at all.  A good patent attorney will advise clients to maximize the client's protection in a commercially reasonable manner.  By "taking" a client's money to seek commercially reasonable patent protection, a patent attorney actually seeks to enhance the value of an invention, thus potentially putting more money in the inventor's pocket, not less.
 
Do all patent applications pan out commercially?  The answer to that question is obvious, but like all business decisions, the decision to seek patent protection is merely a balancing of cost, risk and reward.  A patent is not a magical money making machine, and all patent attorneys worth their salt discuss this with clients at the outset.
 
My only question to Mike is this: you've mentioned "licensing" of non-patented "inventions".  What, precisely, would an inventor be "licensing"?
 
- Jeff

 
Indeed.  One would hope so.  But patent attorneys, like real estate attorneys, or corporate attorneys do not ply their trade out of the goodness of their hearts.
 
And there's nothing wrong with that.  It's what happens in a market economy such as ours. The issue here in that regard is this drumbeat of "you must get a patent!" When an attorney says that, it stops being a "legal" issue and starts being a business issue.  Now of course, any attorney worth his salt will say, "I recommend patenting!"  Which for our purposes and given the vitriol this debate has apparently spawned, amounts to the same thing.
 
I despite a virtual army of strawmen I've encountered here, I am certainly not arguing that a patent is a magic wand to commercial success.  Quite the opposite. It's clear that MOST patented "inventions" never see production and of those that do (I am sure someone has the actual stats on this) a very small percentage actually make money in any substantial way.  That's probably why MOST successful inventors have dozens if not hundreds of developments under their belts.  
 
That's not to say the brass ring invention does not appear occasionally, either.  Nor is it to say that there are no doubt hundreds of highly  technical "inventions" ever year that require patenting, especially in medicine, high tech, agriculture, etc.  But I am not developing anything like that.  I am developing new, low-end household consumer products for which a 5 years of my time and $10,000 of my money is laughable in view of the likely returns.  Much of what patent attorney's sell, apparently, appeals more to the inventor's ego than that part of his or her brain that percieves rationally.
 
Answer (again): you license your invention to a manufacturer.  You are selling them a new(er) product that they agree is likely to sell and make them money. You are SELLING them the idea, one they did not have before you darkened their doorway.  They are professionals in their field and they determine whether such a product will sell and whether they can make a profit on it.  If they answer "yes" to these questions, they BUY the idea off you, which involves the language of "licensing" it, which essentially means you are paid a royalty on each unit.  Pretty simple stuff.  Doesn't require a buncha wherefores and hereinafters.
 
 I have a really difficult time believing this is a foreign concept to so many of you.  It happens all the time.  
 
Now a question for you: what, exactly, are you "selling" a manufacturer when you have a patent? According to your own argument, a patent does not not guaranteeing commercial success; all you are guaranteeing is that nobody else is also manufacturing the same thing (for a time, anyway--pop into any dollar store and you will find one-handed, reversible socket wrenches being manufactured in China and sold here...but wait!  Doesn't Sears hold a patent on those!?).  
 
So the more pertinent question becomes: what are YOU as a patent attorney selling an inventor like me?
 
Mike
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Re: Lots of "Patent Professionals" Advic
« Reply #24 on: Sep 12th, 2005, 2:52pm »
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Mike, to paraphrase part of your latest posting:
     When you license your invention to a manufacturer you are selling
     them a new product that they agree is likely to sell and make them
     money. You are SELLING them the idea, one they did not have before
     they spoke to you.  They BUY the idea off you, which involves the
     language of "licensing" it, which essentially means you are paid a
     royalty on each unit.
 
Mike, simply because you develop an invention you don’t own it.
 
If I tell you that I have learned great new a short cut to avoid traffic congestion and offer to reveal my secret for so many $/trip, and you are willing to agree to my terms, that’s great we have a deal.  On the other hand, if you simply choose to follow me home and learn my short cut that way ... well that would just be too bad for me.  Since I can’t own my short cut, if you can learn it out by copying me I’d simply be out of luck.  
 
It is similar with an invention.  If the inventor can persuade a business to license the invention sight unseen great, maybe a licensing deal can be worked out.  More likely however, the business will not be willing to even negotiate without seeing the invention and evaluating it themselves.  
 
In some cases the inventor can show the business a “black box”.  If it is possible to demonstrate what the invention can do without revealing the secrets, perhaps the business can be persuaded to take a license ... but it’s a tough sell.
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Richard Tanzer
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