Sunday, August 31, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Now, there are still other reasons that the USPTO will accept, in granting an accelerated examination of a patent application. If an inventor has a project that significantly protects/improves the environment or society (in general terms), saves energy, or advances certain fields of science, then the patent application may qualify for expedition. In such cases, a PTMS can be filed. If the inventor feels the project is in jeopardy because of existing infringement, or because a manufacture may only be available temporarily, then a PTMS may also be filed. But, in any of these cases (except for applicants of poor health, or of age 65) the results of a fairly comprehensive international patent search must be submitted with a petition. This adds to the expense of the application, whether the search is conducted professionally, or by the inventor.
These requirements are relatively new. And, many now feel that they put an undue burden on the inventor, especially if the USPTO creates its own backlog. And, when it comes to expediting the examination process, some believe that age and poor health give the only practical advantage. Incidently, where there are two or more co-inventors of a particular project, only one of them needs to qualify...
Monday, March 31, 2008
You will be writing-off all of your patent application expenses as Research and Experimentation for your invention-based business. Those expenses can include additional research, engineering and prototyping. The Affordable Patent Service can itemize, document, and conduct these other activities for you, as well.
You don’t need to show (or even expect) very much income in the first few years, necessarily, to maintain a business status with your project. But, as much as inventing can be an enjoyable hobby, it is important to treat your activities responsibly, when it comes to money, time, diligence, and so on. This will show that you are handling your efforts like a business. Doing so will actually promote good habits for documenting your invention developments.
The simplest way to track your development is with some sort of timesheet. (A good one to use is the Year-at-a-Glance, which lets you log hours either by day or by month.) A supplemental form of documentation is the APS Provisional Disclosure. There are also some very handy and inexpensive computer programs made for “clocking in” to your project(s). You should get into a routine of logging hours for all of your project activities, which may include acquisitions, prototyping, research, networking, milestones, and fund-seeking. Records for the involvement of such things need to be well-kept in order to establish a business-like approach, and before considering yourself entitled to deduct or depreciate anything as a business expense.
In terms of finances, it is often suggested that setting up a separate bank account, and dedicating it to only project transactions is just about the most convenient way to track business income and expenses. If the project can be included as part of a larger group of projects or a business venture, then that’s fine too. It’s essential, though, to demonstrate individual focus with each of them. You want your efforts to look like more than just a plain old hobby. Adopting a business-like approach to your project finances goes a long way in achieving appropriate status, with respect to taxes. And, taking steps to acquire intellectual property is a great way to demonstrate to the IRS that you mean business.
Incidentally, if things don’t go as well as expected with your project, it is also possible to donate your application, or issued patent, to a non-profit organization. This allows you to write-off the fair market value of the intellectual property, in the tax year following your donation. Look for a coming article for more information about that…
Friday, February 29, 2008
Above is my avatar at Instructables.com, one of the more interesting websites out there, for building stuff. Click on the image to check out my first project at the site. There's also a pretty active forum section, too. Just make sure to bring your hardhat...
Thursday, January 31, 2008
This is the new home of a simple visual aid to guide you along the invention process from start to finish. Keep in mind, it may not be the same finish for every one. But if you have an idea, and your not quite sure where to start, then go to the lower left of this image and work your way through the flowchart...
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I have long since scoured the internet for simply the most productive forum for inventing for profit. And without a doubt, the most active internet forum on the web today (and likely for some time to come) is I-Spot.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Many inventors believe that they ought to be concerned with international protection, right off the bat. It’s always good to be aware of what can be done to preserve the option to apply for international rights to intellectual property, at a later time. But, it is seldom necessary to pursue them with domestic rights, all at once. You should understand how powerful US patent protection can be.
Let’s say you patent a great product in the states. Well, once that patent gets issued and published, it serves as prior art (a defense, if you will) against anyone who would want to acquire a patent for the same product in another country. So, not only are your rights secured for the US, you also keep others from getting a patent on it in other countries.
What if someone files for the same product in another country before my US patent gets issued? Then they may get their own patent for it in that country. If that would be a concern, then you would want to consider publishing your patent application as soon as possible, so that the publication itself can serve to protect you from overseas competition. In fact, you wouldn’t even need to file for a US patent to do that. Any public printed material describing your product (including internet content) will serve to prevent others from getting a patent anywhere in the world for the same product, in simple terms.
Then why do I even need a US Patent? Well, you eventually need a patent somewhere to do business. Most US residents are naturally interested in US patent protection. However, you could just as well get a patent in Germany, for example, and it would keep anyone in the US from getting a patent on it (provided that the German filing gets published there before anyone else files for the US patent on it.) In this example, you would still be able to sell your product in the states. But, you wouldn’t be able to prevent anyone else from selling it in the states either.
Then why would I want that situation? Because in the real world of commerce, manufacturers are reluctant to take big risks without the prospect of a stronghold in the marketplace. Let’s say you owned a US patent on your product, and it was the only patent in the world for that product. And, say you had it mass-produced in the US, or somewhere else. The chances are good that you would enjoy a worldwide monopoly on it, simply because you’re entitled to produce it somewhere without competition. From a business perspective, foreign companies would be reluctant to compete with you, because they would have too much to lose. Even if they did compete with you in other countries, you would still enjoy a monopoly in the states.
Does this apply in every case? No, a lot depends on the product itself. If you have a great idea for a simple product that’s very easy to make, which seems like it would be popular all over the world, then you may very well want to consider maintaining the option to file for international protection. The decision to pursue overseas protection wouldn’t need to be made right away, though. The important thing to remember about it is that you would not want to sell, or make anything public about your product before you have secured US patent rights, or before you initiated the process to acquire international rights (to be safe).
Sunday, September 30, 2007
1. US utility patent applications get published 18 months after their priority date.
2. When a US provisional application gets referenced by a US utility patent [application], the priority date becomes the filing date for that provisional.
3. The content of a US provisional patent application gets published with the follow-up utility patent application.
4. A submitted utility patent application gets accepted by the USPTO and is given a filing date, even if it does not include the filing fee.
5. If a utility patent application gets received by the USPTO without a payment, the patent office will send out a notice within a few weeks, giving the applicant 2 months from the date of that notice, to submit a payment.
6. The payment can be delayed for an additional 5 months before the application is considered abandoned (which is a total of at least 7 months from the utility filing date, and at least 19 months from the priority date established by the provisional).
7. According the PCT, any application that maintains foreign priority rights must be published within 18 months of its priority date.
This means that you can file a provisional US patent application (for $100) and, close to a year later, send in a utility application that makes reference to the provisional date. Even if you don’t pay the filing fee on the follow-up application, it should get published about six months later. And, when it gets published by the USPTO, it’s published permanently. This strategy gets you a whole lot of bang for your buck.
You may still want to file a follow-up utility application in a condition that can eventually be examined by the USPTO, of course. (This means it would need to include at least one claim, a description, and drawings.) However, this would not be absolutely necessary for publication purposes.
In a way, this procedure is similar to the old Document Disclosure Program that was abandoned by the USPTO back in February 2007. Now, for the cost of filing a US provisional patent application, you can use the USPTO to not only verify proof of your disclosure, but to also publish it for good.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
So, one might ask, “why is it even necessary to have a search performed before filing a patent application?” The simple answer is that it’s not. These days, however, preliminary patent searches are performed (before filing for a patent) so that the inventor may avoid the cost of an expensive patent application process. If the inventor can uncover readily available prior art that would render the invention either obvious or not new, then he or she will know beforehand that it wouldn’t be worth it to pursue a patent that doesn’t have a very good chance of being granted.
Incidentally though, here’s a piece of information that is just as key as the results of any patent search: At any given time, there are many, many patent applications going through the process of examination. Most of these applications are not available for anyone to search… ANYONE. The applications are held with the patent office in complete secrecy. And, when you consider the reality that many ideas occur to several individuals at or about the same time, you then realize that even the most thorough patent search humanly possible may not do you any good at all. Only a patent examiner can tell you about much of the prior art.
Now then, if it seems to you altogether redundant to perform work that will only be repeated later as a necessary step— repeated by the only people who can actually make a ruling on your case, then you are not alone. As a matter of fact, exactly half of the fee that the USPTO charges anyone to file for a utility patent goes directly into paying for the examiner to conduct a prior art search.
Yet, the patent process was never intended to break inventors. Sure, the USPTO filing fee for a utility patent has always been about the same as the cost of feeding a family of eight very well, for a month. But, that’s geared traditionally to discourage people from filing too many patent applications for frivolous ideas.
Then, why do patent practitioners charge so much to file your patent application for you? The answer is, because they can. That doesn’t mean we all do, however. Some of us actually empathize with the inventors, and we don’t feel right about charging thousands of dollars more than necessary, for only a single step in the process of making the idea an actual success. There are different reasons for that, but what it amounts to is quality performance for a much lower price.
So, just how important is it to conduct an extensive patent search? Well, that all depends on how much you stand to lose, if you don’t.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
It is free to use, as many times as you wish. Simply click on the image of the APS Provisional Disclosure form, and print it out. Then, fill in the information at the top of the form, and follow the Directions carefully.
When it is received, it will be kept on file with APS for two full years, at no charge. You may use a number of these forms over time, to track your development through several stages, and establish diligence in your progress towards a reduction-to-practice. (Contact APS to learn more about these stages, and the importance of reaching the point of reduction-to-practice in a timely manner.) Once you’ve reached that point, the Provisional Disclosure can be used as an effective claim to intellectual property rights. It will be necessary to file for a patent, to have those rights legally granted by United States. However, having your achievement reviewed and witnessed by a registered practitioner will greatly corroborate your date of invention, especially when that date is much earlier than your patent filing date.
You have the option to have your Provisional Disclosure preserved indefinitely, for a one-time fee of $40. (Add $10 for check or money order, made payable to the Affordable Patent Service). This service includes a professional mark of authenticity, which affirms true understanding of the invention itself, by an authorized agent.
Here's a summary of the Directions on the form:
1. Use the box below to describe...
In the space provided, accurately describe what your invention is, and what it does. If there isn’t enough room to fully describe your invention, then attach as many sheets as you need, or other media, to the form. Checkmark the appropriate items to the right, and make a list of the attachments inside the box (example “See attachments: two sheets of drawings, and 1 sheet of specification”).
2. Petition Qualified Person...
For each form, it is best to allow the Affordable Patent Service to determine what stage you have reached with your invention. If you do, then leave the “STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT” section blank. Otherwise, find a qualified person of your choice to attest to your current stage of development. (Make sure the contact info is readable.) Please refer to the chart at the bottom of the form to see the qualifications necessary for each stage.
3. Check Publishing Options...
If you would like the form posted on the web, or printed in a publication, then checkmark one or both of these items. You would be contacted for confirmation, before anything was made public. (For more details on this, contact the Affordable Patent Service.)
4. Mail a true copy of this form...
Sending the original of your form is preferred, however, sending a true copy (digital scan, photocopy, etc.) is acceptable. The form that you send will be returned to you, after your materials have been received.
5. Enclose the appropriate fee.
This fee is only necessary for a permanent record, a mark of authentication, or a request to have the form published.
If the Provisional Disclosure is used to verify a reduction-to-practice (or a constructive RTP), it can be much more powerful than a patent alone. Since the form will stand up in a court of law, as a legal document, it effectively grants reliable proof in the disclosure, transfer, and perpetuation of sustainable information. It is therefore considered an instrument (and method) of purveyance.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
WOULD I NEED A PATENT TO MAKE A PRODUCT GO BIG?
Yes, probably more than 95% of the time, you would.
OKAY, I HAVE AN IDEA. WHERE DO I START?
Start by taking a single piece of paper and documenting the idea in whatever way suits you best. Make sure that it stands alone and provides clarity. This will help you to fully embrace your idea.
CAN I DO MY OWN SEARCH?
Yes, and a pretty decent one, I might add.
HOW DO I KNOW IF A SEARCH IS GOOD ENOUGH?
When you conduct a preliminary search, you’re looking for anything that would blow you out of the water. But, there is really no way to guarantee that any search will be good enough. Making an informed decision, and being able to recommend whether or not to move forward, comes with knowledge and experience.
IS THERE ANY REASON TO FILE A PROVISIONAL?
Yes, definitely. It’s way quicker, which can be a factor when time is critical. There are many fewer technical requirements to be met, with a provisional patent application. So, you can simply secure an earlier filing date at a lower cost.
WHAT IF I FILE FOR A PATENT, AND FIND OUT LATER THAT SOMEONE ELSE BEAT ME TO THE PUNCH?
There may be no other way TO find that out. You’d never know until you try. You might even admit that it would be worth some expense anyway, just to know. And, it wouldn’t be good to let any more time pass, before you establish your own filing date.
HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE TO GET MY FILING DATE?
With a fully developed idea, it can take anywhere from 24 hours to a month. It usually takes a week or two. It all depends on a number of key factors.
SHOULD I PUBLICIZE MY IDEA WHILE IT IS PATENT PENDING?
Most often, yes, but that’s subject to some debate. Spreading the idea around, will increase the number of opportunities that come your way. In today’s fast-paced business world, the benefit of a well-chimed product debut can outweigh any risk involved with an early publication. Either way, you’re not going to stop the imitators. All you can do is take them to court and accept the compliment, if need be.
IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS?
Yes, you can invent something that improves the environment and betters humanity, or you can wait until you are a senior citizen. If you have a computer-related invention, there is also a new procedure in place at the USPTO that you can apply for, called the CPR project. This is a special program that is said to accelerate the examination process and increase the likelihood of a rock-solid patent deed.
However, depending on your target market, there may be certain reasons why you would want to actually extend the pending period as long you can. Filing one or more provisional applications, and managing a lengthy examination process can both serve to effectively prolong your ‘patent pending’ status with the USPTO.
WHAT DO I DO WHEN MY PATENT GETS ISSUED?
Have a party. Invite your patent agent (optional). And, pinpoint the commercial options that have now become widely available to you.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Okay, here it is, your Life-at-a-Glance™ (the back of my business card). Use it as an important date planner, or tracker. The first letter of each month is printed down the sides of the grid, and the days of a month are printed across the top and bottom. When you use it left-to-right, you see the whole year. Each little dot inside the grid falls on the same day of the week for that year (Thursdays for 2007).
Also, if you use the calendar vertically down, it reads an entire year per column. In this case, the numbers printed across refer to the last digit of the year (2001, 2002…2011, 2012…2030, and 2031).
Incidentally, any given date (like Septemeber 1st) falls on the next day of the week, each following year. Just add two days [after the February] for any leap year.
Anyway, this is just something I can share. Use it however you like, but use it wisely. It prints nicely on bigger sheets of paper. I’d suggest pasting it to the top of a landscape letter-size sheet, and adding your own customized legend. It’s well suited for a legal-size sheet. And, I’m sure poster-size would look pretty cool, too. Don't forget to click on it, for a larger image.
Friday, April 20, 2007
The MikeSpike works great for photos and video. Its durable lightweight construction, unique design, and comfortable feel makes photography fun. With the MikeSpike alone, you can take your camera to the beach, and just stick it in the sand. Now, YOU can be part of the memorable shots. Bring it on a camping trip, to the park, or anywhere else you would normally take pictures of friends and family. The ergonomic grip even lets you take better shots by hand. You’ll like the MikeSpike so much, you may never take it off your favorite camera.
To get your own MikeSpike, call (916) 283-IDEA, or send $10 to:
The Affordable Patent Service
Fair Oaks, CA 95628
$10 includes shipping and tax.
For check or money order, add $2.95 for processing.
[US Patent Pending]
Friday, March 30, 2007
In the past, however, I have observed several misconceptions that some people entertain about the difference between the two. I’d like to take a few moments to help clarify them.
The average fees that agents and attorneys charge has nothing to do with a difference in their abilities, necessarily. Private patent attorneys often charge higher fees because they usually have to repay large student loans for law school. And, although there can be a number of factors that influence the rates one charges for particular patent services (such as experience, overhead, philosophy, etc.), none of them relate to any distinction between the titles of Agent and Attorney. They both have to possess a technical background, and they both have to pass the same Patent Bar Exam.
Agents and Attorneys are ethically bound to serve their clients to the best of their abilities. Since patent agents can also perform patent searches, provide legal opinions and advice, prosecute patent applications to allowance, and license issued patents for manufacture and sale, they have every incentive to acquire solid patent protection for their clients. They also have every incentive to remain well-versed in patent law, because case histories and legal precedents are often primary concerns to any practitioner during the preparation and subsequent prosecution (examination) of a patent application.
Patent Agents are often experts in their technical field, as well. Their goal normally has never been to become attorneys, for specific reasons. And, it is in their best interest to avoid litigation for their clients, at all costs. This is because their livelihood is often supported by returning clients, not litigation. And, because intellectual property law is not an exact science, let’s just say that one of the things U.S. Patent Agents enjoy is that they do not suffer from any potential conflict of interest.
Lastly, when people in the United States talk about patent attorneys, they usually mean patent practitioners. The term “patent attorney” is most often mis-used to refer to all persons qualified to do patent work. In fact, with respect to obtaining and licensing a patent, there is no difference between a patent attorney and a patent agent.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Most other countries use what is called the “first-to-file” method, which grants intellectual property (IP) rights to the first one who files a patent application for a particular invention. Although the American method can make things very confusing, it does a fairly good job of ensuring rightful ownership of original inventions. This means, in general terms, that there is no real requirement for secrecy, within the year prior to filing for a patent in the United States of America.
You may wonder why people would want to publicize their inventions before they acquire legal protection for them. It seems counter-intuitive. Well, when you publicize something new (assuming that you disclose enough information to make it obvious to other people), it becomes legitimate proof, for all to see, that you were in possession of that knowledge before anyone else. In fact, publicizing an idea can be far more powerful than keeping it secret.
Why? Because, you effectively eliminate the possibility that someone else will profit from it. Your publication serves as a barrier against U.S. patent protection for anyone but you, the inventor. In simple terms, once an idea becomes public knowledge, the only one who can be publicly protected with it, in the United States, is the true inventor (and his/her assignees or licensees).
So, technically, you can develop an idea, in full view of the public, for one year before filing for a U.S. patent. You may actually seek the assistance of scientists, engineers, and other inventors to add more merit to your own invention.* Afterward, you may be able to legally claim a better invention as a result of the work on your original idea. This is one of the advantages provided by the USPTO that is certainly worth considering.
Many people would be leery of throwing normal caution to the wind like this. But, let’s face it, every inventor must eventually reach the point where s/he is ready to publicize his/her invention, anyway. For an inventor, using this reality to an advantage, in a timely manner, could mean the difference between losing an invention forever and keeping it for good. The USPTO is only there to help.
* Contact the APS before attempting this on your own.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Many people were already aware that this was a powerful tool for independent inventors, as well as seasoned professionals. I understand that the U.S. Postal Service saw a much larger-than-normal volume of mail to the USPTO in the days leading up to the cutoff date. I personally submitted four disclosures during that time.
The Document Disclosure Program (DDP) had always been intended to serve as a preliminary step toward an eventual patent. It was never intended to provide any protection on its own. The DDP may have been given notoriety by companies who would use it unscrupulously. Many uninformed inventors have undoubtedly been duped into relying on the DDP, and consequently funneled into a vulnerable position with their intellectual property.
As it stands now, the U.S. Provisional Patent Application is the most accessible form of protection through the USPTO. The filing fee for a provisional is currently $100. This is a bit more than the old fee for the DDP. And, a provisional application requires much more detail than a document disclosure did. Yet, even a provisional application must be followed by a utility patent application within one year.
As a substitute for the DDP, I will accept disclosure documents, review them, recommend necessary changes (if required), and keep them on file for two years, at no charge. If you are interested, simply contact the Affordable Patent Service about your idea. If you like, a non-disclosure agreement will be forwarded to you promptly.