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I have an Invention ... Now What?
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   Patents. Cotton Candy or What?
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   Author  Topic: Patents. Cotton Candy or What?  (Read 802 times)
Miguel
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Patents. Cotton Candy or What?
« on: Oct 22nd, 2005, 3:01am »
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California. Ok, I've been reading up on patents, reading topics on several forums, posting questions and getting advice dealing with patents, etc. I've been slowly coming to the conclusion that patents aren't all what they are cracked up to be! It's like cotton candy, as a kid you get all excited seeing this big puff of candy to then realize it's just that, cotton. The average Joe gets all excited about this new idea, they go out and get a lawyer/agent to write up a patent for them. Joe Lawyer charges them an avg. of $3500 plus gov. fees. Now Joe Average has a piece of paper that says Patent on it. Looks like important and valuable government documents! Well, now Joe Average has to worry about people or large companies with deep pockets, designing around his patent; and he has to worry about the prosecution history if Festo comes out to play.  Yeah the company can't get a patent on the same thing, but that doesn't stop them from making something similar to his (which falls within the scope of his claimed invention). Ok, let's just assume that the patent Joe Lawyer wrote is air-tight and not so Average Joe Company (with deep pockets) comes out with something similar to Joe Average's product. He writes them and says they are infringing and their not so average Law Firm writes back and says they are not b/c XY and Z is different and the XY and Z law applies to XY and Z. You see where I'm going, Joe Average doesn't have the money and deep pockets to go into long litigations with Not So Average Joe or all the others; he's already in the hole $3500 for getting the patent! The lawyer wins, he got $3500 from Joe Average to make his car payment, the company wins, they got a great new product idea to market and raise revenues, what about Joe! Does anyone have truth to help me not think that a patent is only as good as the money or means you have to protect it through litigation and even then, there are so many loop holes in the law to really fine someone totally liable (the copiers and big companies are shrewd). My attention is not to offend anyone, I’m just using sarcasms to get my thought expressed. Please correct me, I hope to be wrong. Any thoughts?
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Wiscagent
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Re: Patents. Cotton Candy or What?
« Reply #1 on: Oct 22nd, 2005, 7:29am »
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You’re not entirely wrong.  But you’re not entirely right either.
 
Patents are business tools; a bit like advertising or having an efficient distribution system.  There are many small businesses that operate successfully without patents, advertising or efficient distribution systems.  If I own the corner convenience store, I might do just fine without any patents, my only advertising may consist of signs in the window, and my distribution system may simply be allowing customers to pick the items off the shelf and (after paying) walk out with them.
 
On the other hand, each of these business tools – patents, advertising, and efficient distribution systems – are critical to successfully operate some businesses.  When developing a business plan it is important to know where to put your resources.  The independent convenience store probably should not spend anything on advertising on TV, radio, or in a major metropolitan newspaper; but it might be a good investment to sponsor the local junior high school gymnastics team.
 
Now back to Joe Average.  What kind of material, product, or process does he want to use or sell?  Is there any reason to think that others would want to copy it?  If the invention only applies to a niche market, it simply may not be worth the investment to get a patent.  For example, suppose I develop some feature for a suspension system that would make riding in a motorcycle side car more comfortable.  Motorcycle side cars are not a big market.  I may be able to run a successful business using my invention, but it’s probably not worth patenting.  The market isn’t big enough to attract competitors.
 
Now suppose that Joe Average develops a system that would make installing a roof-top solar water heater cheap and easy to install, and solves the problem of the water in the heater freezing in cold weather.  Potentially this is a huge market.  However, to successfully capitalize on this invention would require substantial investments.  In this scenario, the $5000 to $500,000 to obtain patent protection in several countries may be a relatively small, but essential portion of the investment.  Clearly Joe Average would need investors or partners in the business.
 
In other words, the decision to get a patent should be a business decision.  It all depends on Joe Average’s situation.  Suppose you’re starting up a business using your new invention.  During the first 6 months the cash is rolling in faster than you can spend it.  (Nice dream!)  If you have that great cash flow, I’d suggest rushing down to your friendly, local patent agent or attorney and trying to get whatever protection you can right away.
 
Now suppose you have a great invention and there is no practical way you personally can successfully implement the invention.  You know the only ones who can actually implement it are IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, and companies like those.  In that case a patent may be the priority for your business.  Until you have filed a patent application, you have nothing to sell to these companies.  Once you have the application in place, you can contact your potential customers and try to sell them rights.  In this example you would never even try to assert your patent, your customer that bought the rights would decide if and when to level a charge of infringement.
 
Bottom line:  Do patents make sense for Joe Average?  It depends.
 
 
Richard Tanzer
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Richard Tanzer
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mike
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Re: Patents. Cotton Candy or What?
« Reply #2 on: Oct 22nd, 2005, 7:34pm »
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Miguel,
 
You either have an idea worthy of patent protection or you don't.  
 
Regards,
 
mike
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