Protecting your ideas

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I have a great idea! What is the first thing I should do? When you get your ground breaking idea, the first thing to do is to search. The two resources recommended are Google Patents and USPTO.gov. Google patents is a newer service than USPTO.gov but much easier to use. To search, type in the key words that describe your idea. You will see a list of patents in your category. Read the claims and summery of the invention. Patents are written to protect specific claims. Claims are the original features of your idea that are patentable. Past claims contained in other patents cannot be included even if they are expired. When a patent is expired all the claims are considered to be public domain. You also cannot combine patent claims from other patents to make a new patent. If there is a patent that looks very close to your idea, read the specific claims. If all patents do not use the claims that your idea affords to be original, you will have a good chance your idea is patentable. For the long term patentable ideas with good commercial potential are valued for sustaining a business for the long term. Other technologies may nullify or antiquate your patentable idea over time. That is always a known risk. For example, if your idea is a new kind of horse-drawn buggy, now that we have automobiles, it will make your market limited to farm country.

 For increasing your monetary realization, patentable ideas are not always the leading factor in success. There is a saying; “Good design is like the prettiest girl in town, everybody wants her.” The clear aspect to making money with your designs is to first conceive a unique twist to a design that has proven popular. The Big Mac is a hamburger you may or may not think to be original, but it sells in the billions. The key to the Big Mac’s success is that the majority of people like it. McDonalds can duplicate the quality in mass production, national and international distribution channels, and a price that is value driven.

 What is the difference between design patents, utility patents and provisional patents? Now that you have had a chance to confirm that your idea is patentable, apply for a provisional patent. Since 1997 the US patent office put in use the method of the provisional patent to help inventors with small budgets. The provisional patent is a very simple and affordable way to protect your idea. The patent office does not read your patent claims but just files it to record. Once filed the legal protection starts at the date the provisional patent is issued. The process takes at the most six to eight weeks. Once you have received your provisional patent confirmation letter from the USPTO, you have one year to market or sell your idea. The advantages of the provisional patent are that you are able to try to sell it with the label of provisional patent. At that point you know that your invention will sell or has afforded an agreement with a manufacturer. The next step is going forward with a non-provisional patent prior to the provisional patent expiration date. This is in order for priority date or the date that the provisional patent was issued to be conveyed to your non-provisional patent application. A non-provisional patent is a utility patent issued to protect your idea for up to 20 years. You will need to use a lawyer to file a non- provisional patent. If you were working for a large corporation, the corporation would not enter into a non-provisional patent unless they see a great financial benefit from the design because of the amount of time and legal costs associated with a non-provisional patent.

 Design patents versus Utility patents: design patents are based on (aesthetics) the way something looks without consideration of their function. A utility patent is a patentable process of making something, a recipe or formula, a manufacturing technology and the quantified performance as well as the mechanical function of the invention. Design patents for designers in fashion: Unless it is your signature look, design patents are really not necessary. Because the styles are rapidly changing, by the time the patent has been issued, the style would have likely trended out. The time frame to process a patent from filing to issue takes a year with the design patent lasting 14 years.  Utilitarian and sports performance categories of shoes and their technical components are good examples of garnering a need for a utility patent because they contain proprietary features that tend to have a longer shelf life.

What is the “design around”? There are strategies for dealing with issued and current patents that describe the claims of your invention. The first tactic is to design around the patent claims. That means you have to make modifications to your design without infringing on the patent claims; make the changes to legally comply with the patent of concern. If you somehow improve on the existing patent without infringing the new facet of your design, it is patentable as an improvement. For design patents, you are allowed to change the aesthetics by 20% from the original design to avoid infringement. The second method is cooperating with the original patent author by negotiating a royalty or an outright purchase of their patent. A patent holder with nothing going on with his patent will be happy to cooperate with an offer.

 Trademaks: Trademarks are important. When your product becomes a success it is important to trademark the name. Owning the trademark means that someday you can license the name for a royalty or borrow money with your trademark as collateral, or you can sell it outright. The name brand is the difference between selling a common product and selling a branded product for a premium price. It is to your advantage to maintain and invest in it. When placing your campaign on Projectionista.com try to inject some of the above knowledge in your plan to increase your chances of running a successful campaign. You can search trademark status and apply for trademark on USPTO.gov.

For a more in-depth explanation about all patents, provisional patent application and trademark application click the link below.

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