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Anyone ever invented anything

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Anyone ever invented anything

Old 02-14-05, 10:02 PM
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Anyone ever invented anything

I'm not talking about in a pot induced haze, I mean actually invented something that got bought or produced by another company? What's the best way to go about it? I have a great idea for an Ipod peripheral and I'm going to do some 3D model prototypes to get a little package together. Can you just go to Apple(or whoever) with new ideas and expect to make some cash if it takes off? Or should you develop an idea, submit for patents, etc, before even attempting to make contact with the company that'd be the potential buyer?

The problem is that I just don't have the extra cash laying around to develop working prototypes and do all the legal work. I realize that you forfeit a lot of money right there, because all the 'hard' work is being done by someone else. But even an 'idea' has to be worth something. Doesn't it?
Old 02-14-05, 10:13 PM
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Just watch TV between 12am and 5 am and there will be plenty of commericals telling exactly what you want to know.
Old 02-14-05, 10:27 PM
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I don't know if any of our lawyers specialize in intellectual property; they could give you a better answer than I.

However, my recommendation is that if you have a good invention, you patent it before approaching anyone. Otherwise you face one of two huge problems:

*Many reputable companies don't want to deal with unpatented, outside ideas. They are a lawsuit waiting to happen. If you don't file in a timely fashion, someone else could patent the idea. The company could already be working on something similar; they don't even want to hear your idea for fear you would then sue them. My company normally required outside inventers to sign an agreement stating the idea was adequately protected by patent and they weren't telling us anything confidential before we would even speak to them.

*Non-reputable companies may steal your idea and take their chances in court.
Old 02-14-05, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopower
Just watch TV between 12am and 5 am and there will be plenty of commericals telling exactly what you want to know.
Yeah, I've seen those ads, but they don't really tell you anything. I'm looking for people that have actually gone through the process and know what all is involved.
Old 02-14-05, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by monkeyboy
Yeah, I've seen those ads, but they don't really tell you anything. I'm looking for people that have actually gone through the process and know what all is involved.
Sorry, I'm only familiar with the process in the case of an engineer who works for the company and his work agreement states the rights belong to the company. I'm familiar with the process of the company deciding whether to pursue a patent, trade secret, or other alternative, although lawyers obviously did all the paperwork once we made up our minds.

Patents, especially if they need to be filed in multiple countries, are quite expensive, and you really need a pretty good business case that it will give you a competitive advantage. Also it needs to be a real "invention" something novel, that builds on the state of the art. A product idea isn't necessarily an invention, if it is "obvious" to someone "skilled in the art" that it "could" be done, apart from whether or not it is saleable, it generally isn't patentable. (But whether it is "obvious" is like how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. That's what lawyers get paid for.)
Old 02-14-05, 10:39 PM
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classicman was on the team that invented the wheel
Old 02-14-05, 10:40 PM
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Mind you, isn't the cost of a patent prohibitively expensive? I thought they ran into thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.
Old 02-14-05, 10:58 PM
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I'm not talking about in a pot induced haze, I mean actually invented something that got bought or produced by another company?

Old 02-15-05, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by naughty jonny
Mind you, isn't the cost of a patent prohibitively expensive? I thought they ran into thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.
I've heard that as well. It seems like you have to make quite an investment. Won't someone just pay me a couple grand for my clever ideas??
Old 02-15-05, 01:12 AM
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Originally Posted by OldDude
I don't know if any of our lawyers specialize in intellectual property; they could give you a better answer than I.

However, my recommendation is that if you have a good invention, you patent it before approaching anyone. Otherwise you face one of two huge problems:
I had approached one of those online invention places and they assured me that before anything was talked about, we'd both sign a confidentiality agreement. I guess I could just look them up at the BBB site to see if they're legit.
Old 02-15-05, 01:58 AM
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Most inventors go broke spending their money to market their inventions.

A relative of Mrs. Pusser invented a lot of stuff. He was always making patents and then years later technology would catch up with him and a product would come out. His lawyer would sue these Jap. companies for many millions of dollars and he won every time.

He came up with major parts of the cassette player, VCR, bar code scanner, Hot Wheels and a bunch of other things.
Old 02-15-05, 06:50 AM
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I've invented lots of shit that ended up being sold... I never saw a dime for any of them, but that's life I guess. There have been threads here on patents and how-tos of getting things moving... do a search. Every time I look into it, it seems beyond my grasp and I give up.
Old 02-15-05, 01:17 PM
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Yep, it costs a lot of $$$ to patent an invention. The last one I did privately cost around $30-40K for the full process. That came directly out-of-pocket (fortunately my business partner's deep pockets).
Old 02-15-05, 01:56 PM
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I'm a patent attorney, so I'm qualified to give you an answer.

First, patents don't usually cost $40,000 - that's a pretty exorbitant price, actually. Most firms can do it for $15,000. However, most of that cost is in the attorney's fees, and you don't have to pay a patent attorney to file a patent application. You can write it and file it yourself - for as little as $75. (Here is the current patent office fee schedule.)

As others have suggested, do not disclose this idea to anyone, especially Apple, without some kind of confidentiality in place. If Apple offers to send you their confidentiality agreement, read it carefully before signing it: many of these act as waivers, which don't protect you at all and simply give your idea to the company.



Here's what I recommend:
1) First, file a patent application. Look over some issued patents (available free, via a searchable interface, from the patent office website) to get a sense of the structure and language of these documents.

Now, the most important (and tricky) part is the claims section: this is written in very precise and technical language, and a poorly chosen word can sabotage your whole application. However, you don't need to include that section, because you're going to file a provisional patent application. These are tentative documents that act as a placeholder. The down side is that a provisional never issues as a patent, and it must be "converted" into a full patent application within a year (if you don't, it's completely abandoned.) The plus side is that it will hold your place in line, and Apple will take you more seriously if they know you've filed an application.

2) After you've filed a provisional application, approach Apple. Tell them you have an iPod accessory that you want to disclose in confidence (but don't tell them what it is yet.) And tell them you've filed a patent application (but don't show it to them.) On this basis, tell them you want a confidentiality agreement with a reasonable term - three years is typical.

If they don't agree, you can approach other iPod device manufacturers (Belkin?) with the same info as above. If they do agree, then get the document, read it, and discuss any ambiguities with them. After any problems have been resolved, sign the final document and get them to sign and send you an original copy.

3) After you've gotten confidentiality worked out, provide your patent application to them (and stamp it CONFIDENTIAL on every page, along with your signature and the date.) Keep a copy of what you send them.

One of three things will happen:
a) They'll tell you they're interested and will try to work out licensing terms. At this point, consider finding an attorney to handle the negotiations - should be quick and cheap, but you'll get more out of it in the long run.
b) They'll tell you they're not interested and will not produce the peripheral.
c) They'll tell you they're not interested but will produce the peripheral anyway, at which point you sue them. (But only if you've gotten an issued patent out of it.)

Anyway - seriously, think carefully about these issues and your strategy. Don't wait around too long - a lot of the rules in patent law are based on getting the earliest filing date you can. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is all pretty superficial advice, based on the general commercialization path for a typical invention by a sole inventor. The details may change things, but all I have right now is "iPod accessory." Do a lot of research, and email me any questions you may have.

- David Stein

Last edited by sfsdfd; 02-15-05 at 02:01 PM.
Old 02-15-05, 01:59 PM
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.....just the wheel.


actually, my brother-in-law's grandfather invented the "disco ball"
Old 02-15-05, 02:03 PM
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My grandfather invented a foot-steering mechanism for a boat. Called the PedalSteer, quite catchy, huh. He never sold it, but he did patent it, and it was referred to as a source for someone else's later invention. I was searching the US PAtent Office website and found the actual patent application and writeup, pretty neat.
Old 02-15-05, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDude
Patents, especially if they need to be filed in multiple countries, are quite expensive...
Yeah, the international applications are hideously expensive. Filing a Japanese application requires the use of a specific group of Japanese language translators who charge by the word, typically resulting in a $20,000 bill. Worse, they're almost impossible to enforce - you have to find out about it, and then you have to sue in a foreign court. They're really only warranted for big-ticket items ($10MM industrial machines and pharmaceuticals.)
Originally Posted by OldDude
Also it needs to be a real "invention" something novel, that builds on the state of the art. A product idea isn't necessarily an invention, if it is "obvious" to someone "skilled in the art" that it "could" be done, apart from whether or not it is saleable, it generally isn't patentable. (But whether it is "obvious" is like how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. That's what lawyers get paid for.)
Well, the courts and USPTO has done a great job of defining what "obvious" means. Basically, it goes like this:
(a) Is every part of the invention known in the art?
(b) Would one of "ordinary skill in the art" have thought to put these parts together for the intended purpose?
(c) Would that effort have been likely to produce a successful result without undue experimentation?

And the USPTO applies it by citing two or more prior art references (patents, textbook snippets, trade journal articles) that, together, suggest your idea. It's not a perfectly defined term - nothing in the law is - but it's much less vague than a term like "freedom of expression."

- David Stein
Old 02-15-05, 02:24 PM
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It's not one of these, is it?


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