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Is it Patentable?
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   Is a Patent Even Necessary?
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   Author  Topic: Is a Patent Even Necessary?  (Read 661 times)


Posts: 28
Is a Patent Even Necessary?
« on: Sep 6th, 2005, 3:19pm »
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I have a number of ideas, everything from the back-of-the-napkin stage to working prototypes.  None of them are world-shattering inventions; most of them build on existing ideas to make some other product/process better, easier, etc.  None of them alone is likely to make me a $billion over night.
Q: is a patent even necessary?  Yes, I understand it protects me in US/Canada and maybe parts of Europe, but as I understand it, obtaining a full patent is a looooong costly proceedure not to be undertaken by anyone other than and expensive patent attorney (sorta like doing your own can do, it but will probably end up in Leavenworth?).  
So, what about licensing?  It's my understanding that lots of companies that manugacture geegaws of the sort I am "inventing" will simply "buy" the rights to the product off you, then manufacture it and sell it, kicking a royalty back to you.  If any patenting looks necessary, they--with their deep pockets and lawyers on retainer-- handle it.
Seems a lot less brain damage is involved here.  Some risk?  Sure.  I was warned by one "inventions submission" company that if I don't let them get me a patent, Simon L'Gree is sure to abscond with my ideas.
Oh. Woe is me!
Of course, if you just invented a new, better artificial heart, or a microbe that eats has-been Hollywood stars (a noxious waste product) by all means a patent is the way to go.
But let's face it.  Most of us who come into a forum like this are not named Edison.
IP Logged
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Posts: 843
Re: Is a Patent Even Necessary?
« Reply #1 on: Sep 6th, 2005, 4:03pm »
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“Is a patent even necessary?”
One way to look at this question is to imagine that you have an idea that is either not patentable, or the patent protection you might get is so narrow as to have little value.  For example, suppose you have the idea of putting an inexpensive thermometer of some kind – perhaps a liquid crystal display – into a food container, such as a coffee cup.  You make up a few samples and try it out – it works great, no more burned lips; and if it’s not hot enough you know it as soon as you are handed the cup and can have it reheated.
You develop a business model and become convinced that this is a money-making idea.  You identify a business that might manufacture or sell or use the “thermo-cup.”  You contact that business and either:
a)  Ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), but they are unlikely to sign. Why should they commit to anything before they evaluate the idea?  After all, you came to them.
 - or –
b) Go ahead and describe the thermo-cup without an NDA.  Even if they like the thermo-cup, why should they pay you?  Perhaps you have some expertise that they need to successfully implement the thermo-cup, that might be worth something.  But generally, they would not be motivated to pay for something (the idea) you just gave them for free.
Of course another option is for you to pay a manufacturer to make thermo-cups and then market them yourself.  If you do that, perhaps you could develop a valuable trademark and protect your idea that way.
Someone does not have to be a Simon L'Gree to use someone else’s idea.  Starbucks sells its coffee in cups with a cardboard band to provide insulation.  For the purpose of this note, let’s assume that the band is not patented.  If I were to open a coffee shop, I might copy Starbucks cardboard band idea ... why not?  Perhaps I’m clever and somehow add value to the cardboard; I print coupons on it or something like that.  The next coffee shop owner could copy my idea, that’s how it works.
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Richard Tanzer
Patent Agent
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