No, I haven't used them, but I will in the future. I just spent $7K to get a name protected with the United States Patent and Trademark office. After seeing what was involved, I will be wiser next time. You are doing the right thing in protecting your intellectual property. The "send a letter to yourself" syndrome sounds great, but doesn't hold up in court. Enjoy
The easiest and cheepest way to protect your idea is a provisional patent. this version of patent was created for the little guy. you can write it yourself, including description, drawings, etc. and send it to the patent office with return addressed post card. This gives you "Patent pending" status with the date of your mailing
you then have 1 year to decide if it is commercializable and before 12months is up, file a regular filing ( $10k approx o rless if a patent attourney gives you a "littel guy break")
you keep the original filing date.
now the regular filing may result in no patentable claims, but you were protected for a year, and get the early date if there are claims that are patentable. you can still make and/or sell your idea either way and hopefully the patent pending status convinced copiers to look fro somethign else to copy
I did it myself. bought a book from waldens book store and followed the process.
the cost to file this provisional by yourself is less than $100
you can then talk with contract manufacturers, having them sign a simple non disclosure agreement first, and get quotes to manufacture your product. or you can license the patent pending idea to an existing company in the market.
they may agree to a licensing percentage contingeant on you obtaining a patent, or simply pay a fair commision for you bringing the idea to them.
if you have more questions, email me
M.S Mechanical Engineering
Chief Engineer, Adv Prod Development
Yes I heard that a patent pending is the best....once you have a patent I believe company's can look up all the info, and just change a minor piece and then they are around the patent....also have everyone you discuss your project to, sign a non-disclosure.....I also believe marketing the item is the hardest part is making it successfull...If you need some CAD (Drawings) work done let me know....
In my business we have a lot of issues with intellectual property. The fastest, cheapest, easiest thing to do is write out your idea into a process format. (manufacturing process and use process) Usually a network diagram or swimlane chart with an attached written description. Then get that copyrighted.
the copyright isn't as good as a patent, but its quick and easy and will hold up in the court of law. From there you can work on getting the patent, but the copyright will give you some protection in the mean time.
One of the issues with a "patent pending status" is that you expose your idea to the world. Another is that you start the meter running on your 12 months......sounds like a long time, until you start watching the calender!!
I have several patents.
Is your idea a business model or an actual object?
The letter to yourself can actually play against you in a court of law.
Best thing is to go to www.uspto.gov and try to find something similar by searching "patents". There is also a "manual of classifications" that you can type in key words and it will search all the classes and subclasses of inventions.
For example, "propellers" will give you a good starting point.
Another example would be "carpet", or "tool" or "food processors". You can also do "Boolean" search or "Advanced" search. Really slick. If you are unsure of the ending of a word, use a truncated version with the wild card $. Example propeller$
Once you find something similar, then refine your searches until you find something really close to your idea. It may already have been invented, and you will be disappointed but save a lot of work and money. Also, it may just be a bad idea.
I had a man ask me about using air pressure fluctuations in a building to work as an intrusion alarm "burglar alarm". I told him it won't work. Why? Because every time the wind blows, or someone starts a ventilation fan, you will get a false alarm. Besides, even if it does work, it is at best, "control by inference". And there are some very good and cheap sensors that work by infrared, ultrasound, pressure sensitive floor mats, etc. He really had a long face. I told him to be happy, that I had just saved him about $10,000 in cash and hard work.
Many years ago, the patent search was very tedious. But now with the online searches, you can do it all in a couple of days.
The second step is to draw some very good sketches. Eventually these will have to be converted to real drawings, but unless you can visualize and sketch it, nobody can help you.
Write up what your idea is and reference your novel ideas to the items on the sketches.
Then you are ready to talk to a patent attorney. Avoid the "get rich from your ideas" firms. They will milk you and leave you with a long face.
A good attorney is essential and he must be skilled in that aspect of the law as it is highly specialized.
Defending an invention in court is very expensive, but the Supreme Court has handed down some decisions in the last 5 years or so that are friendly to the small inventor and will really slam infringers.
I don't think a foreign patent is worth chasing. There is no justice in foreign courts for US citizens.
The trouble with a provisional patent is that you can't add refinements without loosing much of your priority date because that added material is considered new material. So do your homework now and do it as thoroughly as possible. Don't put it off for the year of grace because it just muddies the water too much.
Non of the above is legal advice, just my opinion based on experience.
Call me if you want to talk. Don't call Tues, July 31
512 577 7374 let it ring a long time.
All kidding aside I really do have a few ideas and I need to figure out on what to do with them.This legal sh!t is a pain in the @ss.I'll keep taking advice and make a few calls,hopefully I can figure it out.
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