Have you ever invented anything?

emw

macrumors G4
Original poster
Aug 2, 2004
11,177
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...and subsequently patented and/or marketed it?

The reason I ask is that a friend of mine, apparently inspired by American Inventor, has come up with what I think is a reasonably good idea that could potentially make it to market.

Unfortunately, neither of us has any idea how to patent anything. Getting it to market, she can handle I think, once she's got her patent, assuming that's the best way to go (waiting for the patent). I've seen "patent pending" on things, but does that just mean it's been filed, but not approved?

I'm really unclear on this process. I've been peripherally involved to some degree in patents at work, but those are always really handled by tech writers and lawyers that I don't interact with, and so don't know the details.

Pricing on patents seems fairly low (several hundred dollars to apply and get the patent, if awarded) so that's a good thing.

I'm really just looking for some information to help her out - inventor "support" sites, etc. I think she'll need some professional guidance on the whole thing since, well, the best I can do is ask you all!

Thanks!
 

mpw

Guest
Jun 18, 2004
6,364
1
I'm in a similar boat, I've got an invention that I can market and I'm pretty sure will make me richer than Bill Gates, Steve Jobs AND the Queen put together. I just need a patent....and the discovery of a new element with some very specific properties.
 

nbs2

macrumors 68030
Mar 31, 2004
2,713
487
A geographical oddity
At the risk of providing utterly useless information, I'm going to suggest she talk to a patent attorney, especially if it isn't an As Seen on TV type of item. I'm not sure how easy it will be to find a lawyer, maybe one of the Others can help (I've only seen season 1, so don't spoil anything!).

Seriously though, it shouldn't be too difficult to find an attorney that has some understanding of patent law. Worst case, she could go to FindLaw and locate a lawyer. Trying to do it on her own may end up costing her more hours of value than a lawyer would cost her in cash...
 

kgarner

macrumors 68000
Jan 28, 2004
1,512
0
Utah
uspto.gov has a list of registered patent attorneys and patent agents. Agents are generally cheaper, but can't give you any legal advice and such. They just handle the writing and filing and such for you.

I have some experience since I used to do patent illustrations for my company and a little bit on the side. I even have a patent application that I am one of the inventors on.

My advice, is to talk to a patent attorney. Filing a patent ain't cheap though. I don't know the exact amounts, but it will likely be over $5000 for a patent attorney to do it. That includes research to see if your invention hasn't been patented or to figure out what of the invention is patentable, writing and illustration fees, and filing fees.
 

iBlue

macrumors Core
Mar 17, 2005
19,182
15
London, England
sort of. then I find out some cracker has already thought of it. <sulks>

I make things quite a bit, but that's not exactly an invention per se.
 

emw

macrumors G4
Original poster
Aug 2, 2004
11,177
0
kgarner said:
My advice, is to talk to a patent attorney.
Yeah, that's probably what I'll suggest. Finding one that's helpful will be the issue, but I'll check out the Patent Office site in more detail. Thanks!

ToddW said:
yep i got my patent last year
Care to share any advice?
 

baby duck monge

macrumors 68000
Feb 16, 2003
1,570
0
Memphis, TN
emw said:
Pricing on patents seems fairly low (several hundred dollars to apply and get the patent, if awarded) so that's a good thing.
The problem isn't usually the cost of the patent itself, but rather the patent search you need to run beforehand. This can easily run as high as $10,000. :(
 

Brize

macrumors 6502a
Jun 13, 2004
732
0
Europe
mpw said:
I'm in a similar boat, I've got an invention that I can market and I'm pretty sure will make me richer than Bill Gates, Steve Jobs AND the Queen put together. I just need a patent....and the discovery of a new element with some very specific properties.
By the way, how's the patent coming along for that 11-inch foot?
 

emw

macrumors G4
Original poster
Aug 2, 2004
11,177
0
baby duck monge said:
The problem isn't usually the cost of the patent itself, but rather the patent search you need to run beforehand. This can easily run as high as $10,000. :(
Yikes. I had assumed perhaps a couple thousand - I suppose it depends on what else is out there regarding prior art or other patents, and how detailed she wants/needs to get with the patent.

If it's 5K to 10K, I think it'll still be doable. At least it's good to let her know what some of the upfront (and ultimately unrecoverable) costs will be, regardless of if the patent would be valid.
 

SamIchi

macrumors 68030
Aug 1, 2004
2,710
134
I invented Flubber (Foober was my name), but Robin Williams stole it and named it Flubber.
 

jsw

Moderator emeritus
Mar 16, 2004
22,910
41
Andover, MA
I've got a half dozen or so patents pending, including one mocked by Gizmodo, all through work.

I've never submitted one personally, but I do know a few things that might be helpful.

First, it takes a very long time to get a patent approved, especially in certain areas. Mine are still pending after two years, and others have taken twice that long or worse. You might get lucky and get one faster, but not much. She should not wait until it's approved. As long as it's submitted, she's "safe" and can sue the pants off any infringers once (and if) the patent is granted.

Second, as mentioned above, patents are expensive. Very expensive. Not just the app itself, but the search, etc. - and that's just for a US patent. My company routinely spends more than US$100K for patent applications worldwide, sometimes well over that. If her idea is great and she just gets a US patent, nothing stops someone from making it in Europe, China, etc. but at least she'd have some protection here.

Third, patents are even more expensive to defend. They're nice insurance of sorts, but having one doesn't mean you're "safe", just that you have options if it's infringed. But those options are expensive.

My advice would be for her to research the market and try to estimate how much she could earn off of this. If it's, say, millions, then by all means patent it. If it's $20K, just make it and sell it and don't worry about rip-offs. But many countries require patents to be filed before the object is "public" so it's the sort of thing you need to figure out before you produce something.
 

emw

macrumors G4
Original poster
Aug 2, 2004
11,177
0
Thanks for the tips - I don't think she'll be worried about international patents - it's not that kind of an idea. Besides, even if companies in the US had them made offshore, they couldn't sell them here, right?

She may consider making and selling them without the patent if it's going to get too expensive. She'll have to make that decision.