The Inventor's Dilemma


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So you’ve done your homework (or are planning on being diligent about it at least). And you’ve decided to definitely forge ahead and gain a patent on your invention. So now what? Well, first of all, be warned that patenting your invention will cost you several thousand dollars. The fee varies widely; you will ultimately need to receive an estimate from the professional you choose.

So wait a second, who should you choose? How do you choose them? Can’t you just do all this yourself?

OK, let’s address these questions one at a time. Yes, you actually can patent your invention without the help of a professional. You can also do all your taxes yourself, put in a new transmission the next time your car needs a new one, and go out and start building yourself a home. If you’re the do-it-yourself type, there really isn’t anything you can’t do (give yourself a haircut, perform dentistry on your own… OK I’ll stop now).

I’m sure you see where I’m going. You can try to patent your own invention as well as a whole list of other things, but should you? That’s the key point. Should you really try to patent your invention on your own? As a registered patent agent myself, I’m going to share a little with you.

The U. S. patent system is complex. You can patent your own invention, but it’s probably best to at the very least have a professional check it out for you before you file it. Patenting your invention isn’t something you can achieve by simply filling out a short form over the internet. Like I said, it really is complex. I have nothing to gain by telling this to you… I don’t accept clients so I’m not trying to get you to use my services. I actually want you to succeed.

Here’s just one example of how an inventor can royally screw things up for themselves when running off and trying to gain a patent on their own. Let’s use a fictitious inventor named Jay in this story.

Jay comes up with a great little contraption for peeling potatoes. Simply, yet effective. So he runs off and downloads some of the forms from the Patent and Trademark Office website and spends some time on his application. He does everything by the book as best he can, sends the paperwork in and waits.

Time passes. And passes. And passes.

Finally, Jay receives an official looking notice in the mail from the Patent and Trademark Office. Excited beyond belief, he tears the envelope open.

Inside, he discovers that …

… the Patent and Trademark Office has rejected his initial attempt. They cite a number of rules and laws in their explanation as to why the patent application was rejected.

The thing is, this isn’t really terrible news. Most patent applications are rejected after the first round, not a big deal. Jay realizes this after he takes his application to a patent attorney in the city nearby. Relieved, he decides to let the professional help him get his patent.

The patent attorney works diligently to overcome the rejections and get Jay’s patent in shape. However, there’s a trick. Once a patent application has been filed, you may not ever, ever add in new matter to that particular application.

Here’s what I mean by this. Let’s suppose Jay’s invention was rejected because his potato peeler is just too darn similar to what already exits. The Patent Office decides it isn’t novel. Jay didn’t know what he was doing, so when comparing his invention to other patented inventions, he really didn’t hit on the new features. He actually missed a couple.

And here’s where the bind is. After digging through the application and all the previous patents on potato peelers, Jay’s attorney determines that Jay’s potato peeler really does have some new features that may have made his invention more novel in the Patent Office’s eyes. The problem is, none of these new features may now be added into the application he originally filed. New matter may not be added in at this point.

So where does this leave Jay? Well, pretty much back at the starting point. He will have to pay for a new application of sorts to be drafted. But since about 2 years have passed at this point, it’s possible someone else has already patented these features. They aren’t going to have been protected by the application he previously filed since they weren’t mentioned. So if he had done it right from the start, he’d be ahead of the game now.

I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating a scenario like this would be. Fortunately, you don’t have to repeat it.

My suggestion is, if you really want to do most of the legwork yourself, that’s fine. But before you send the application in, have a professional at least look it over. It can really save you in the long run.

Copyright © 2005 Lisa Parmley - Registered Patent AgentReceive your FREE subscription to our Inventor’s Bulletin. It’s packed full of tips on how to patent and market your invention. Patent Your Inventions


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