The Intellectual Property Law Server

Welcome, Guest. Please Login or Register.
Oct 26th, 2020, 8:18pm

Forums Forums Help Help Search Search Members Members Calendar Calendar Login Login Register Register
   Intellectual Property Forums
  
  
I have an Invention ... Now What?
(Moderators: Forum Admin, JimIvey, JSonnabend)
   How do I protect my idea?
« Previous topic | Next topic »
Pages: 1 2  Reply Reply Send Topic Send Topic Print Print
   Author  Topic: How do I protect my idea?  (Read 1446 times)
bp57
Newbie
*




   


Posts: 5
How do I protect my idea?
« on: Apr 3rd, 2004, 11:47am »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

I've performed research on “Pet Rocks”, invented in April 1975 by salesman, Gary Dahl.  By the time the fad ended in December 1975, copycat rocks had flooded the market (e.g., “the Original Pet Rock”).
 
I've tried researching this site for possible methods that would have protected Mr. Dahl from the copycats, but I've found nothing specific.
 
My short question is this:
 
What could Mr. Dahl have done to protect himself against the copycats?
 
Mind you, I don't want to "look a gift horse in the mouth", but I don't need any advice on analyzing whether my idea will make money, whether I should first contact a lawyer, etc.  Pure and simple, I just need to know whether anyone can definitively say whether there was something Mr. Dahl could have done so that he could recover compensation from the copycats and prevent further use.
 
Thanks very much.
 
 
 
IP Logged
JimIvey
Moderator
Senior Member
*****




  jamesdivey  
WWW

Posts: 2584
Re: How do I protect my idea?
« Reply #1 on: Apr 3rd, 2004, 12:36pm »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

How to protect a pet rock?
 
Patents: unavailable.  From a technological standpoint, it's very hard to argue that there's anything novel or non-obvious about a rock in a crate.
 
Trade secret:  unavailable.  I would be very surprised to find that there's anything about the rock in the crate that's not publicly known.
 
Trademark:  available and probably useful.  He could have prevented others from using the phrase "pet rock" to describe their competing rock in a crate.  The few months you mentioned is too short to get a registered trademark, but you can instantly claim common law trademark protection by putting the mini "TM" by "Pet Rock."  Enforcement is more difficult than with a registered trademark, but you still have something to argue about in court.
 
Copyright:  sort of available.  You're not likely to get a copyright on the rock itself or the idea of putting it in a crate.  But you can get copyright protection for any graphical artwork and wording on the crate.
 
Trade dress:  probably available.  That's a subset of "unfair competition" and can be viewed as something like trademark protection.  The argue would be that "knockoffs" are using similar packaging which is confusing to the consumer -- i.e., making them think they're getting an authentic "pet rock" when in fact they're getting an imposter.
 
So, the bottom line is that the creator of the pet rock probably could have protected it if he decided to do so.  My guess is that he either (i) didn't know he could or (ii) decided it wasn't worth it.  The reasoning for (ii) would be that the product was a fad product with a very short useful life and that any litigation on the matter would be expensive and unlikely to extend the useful life by an appreciable amount.  
 
Suppose, for example, that Mr. Dahl figured he had a maximum of one year before the fad would peter out.  If he got 8 good months before knockoffs started appearing, that's not bad.  Any litigation on the remaining 4 months wouldn't be settled in time to save much of the profits from the last 4 months.  And the costs could easily exceed those profits and eat into profits from the previous 8 months.
 
Some business ideas have very limited lifespans and legal remedies just don't seem to fit well.
 
Regards.
IP Logged

--
James D. Ivey
Law Offices of James D. Ivey
http://www.iveylaw.com
eric stasik
Full Member
***


director, patent08

   
WWW Email

Posts: 391
Re: How do I protect my idea?
« Reply #2 on: Apr 3rd, 2004, 11:13pm »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

Dear bp57,
 
Great question.  
 
The pet rock - as sold in the 1970's - was one of those ideas which would have been hard to protect with IP. But it probably didn't matter, the business model was not dependent on IP: the key element in the business plan was timing.  
 
Fads die quickly and after the initial few months surge there usually isn't much profit left. By being first out with the product, Mr. Dahl didn't need IP. All his profit was on the front end and so his period of "sustainable differentiation" was long enough. Once the copycats started cutting into his action, the market was already greatly diminished. He may have wasted his time getting patents to cover his idea and even more money trying to defend his share of a shrinking market.  
 
On the other hand, say the pet rock had staying power... like Barbie (the original pet rock.) Then it would be necessary to design-in features which could be protected with IP. In addition to choosing a catchy name for a trademark, maybe he could have designed in features into the rock which made it eligible for design patent protection, or even copyright protection. Perhaps patent a unique box in which it is sold, or displayed.  
 
While it was not possible in 1975, it might now be possible to patent the business model - it certainly was not obvious that selling rocks would have generated such commercial success.  
 
My guess is that the Pet Rock was never destined to live for more than a short period of time and IP protection would not have made too much difference in the profits Dahl was able to extract.  
 
Your specific idea may be entirely different. If so, then spending a few hours with a patent expert to discuss the details of your circumstances might be money well spent.  
 
Regards,
 
Eric Stasik
 
 
IP Logged

eric stasik
director

http://www.patent08.com

patent08
patent engineering,
business development,
and licensing services
postbox 24203
104 51 stockholm
sweden
M. Arthur Auslander
Full Member
***


I love YaBB 1G - SP1!

   
Email

Posts: 541
Re: How do I protect my idea?
« Reply #3 on: Apr 4th, 2004, 6:43am »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

The best I can think of NOW is a proposed use trademark application maturing into a registration in use.
 
That would not preclude paralell usage but would save the name for all its imaginative effects.
 
The the mark might be rejectable as descriptive. It could be appealed.
« Last Edit: Apr 4th, 2004, 7:17am by M. Arthur Auslander » IP Logged

M. Arthur Auslander
Auslander & Thomas-Intellectual Property Law
3008 Johnson Ave., New York, NY 10463
7185430266, aus@auslander.com
Reality Check® ELAINE's Workshop®
bp57
Newbie
*




   


Posts: 5
Re: How do I protect my idea?
« Reply #4 on: Apr 4th, 2004, 9:56pm »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

Now I know why this site and all of the contributors get such high ratings.  Thanks VERY much.
 
When my idea hits the big time and Newsweek wants to interview me (hey, I can hope, right?), you'll each be acknowledged and thanked.
 
Thanks again, BP.
 
 
IP Logged
Pages: 1 2  Reply Reply Send Topic Send Topic Print Print

« Previous topic | Next topic »
Powered by YaBB 1 Gold - SP 1.3.2!
Forum software copyright © 2000-2004 Yet another Bulletin Board