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This Invention: A Family Content Network

A journal, information and resources for establishing a Family Content Network, as I am doing - essentially a framework for managing all your Family's online assets and inventions for maximum exposure and revenue. This blog began as an inventor's journal, and retains the overall parent inventor's context and mindset.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

(7) Time Flies

Well, time really flies if you don't pay attention. Been working far to hard on the 'day' job to pursue the invention, but have finally scheduled time with the designer to produce a prototype. I did order a fairly similar product online, to be delivered to my home, to try out as a concept. I was also very interested in the packaging, additional materials, directions, method of assembly, etc. The product was really only useful to those with extreme need, and mechanical inclination. The extreme need was weather-related (i.e. snow), though the product was advertised to overcome other terrain issues. The attachment mechanism was full of straps and bolts and screws; not a very 'ad hoc' mechanism. Therefore, my particular target audience should be more inclusive than that of this product.

Here it is March, and I'm still searching all over the web for related products, inventions, issues, etc. concerning this invention, and still no 'hits'. I am however, getting somewhat nervous that (1) another inventor is dealing with this, secretly, under patent pending status, and (2) the longer I wait to submit the 'rea' patent, the more likely it is some manufacturer will come up with something that I will be unable to realistically defend.

This second point comes from reading yesterday about the death of the fellow that invented the automobile intermittent wiper, and who spent nearly 30 years trying to defend the patent and collect royalties. He was ultimately successful, but pretty much lost his marriage, livelihood, most of the proceeds, etc. Don't want to be in that situation.

I would note that one somewhat selfish reason for this blog, is for additional invention documentation purposes; although the product isn't revealed yet, the collective 'story' should support the invention claim, and the pending patent.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

(6) Timeline

Interesting to note, that as I dated some recently faxed files, it was halfway through February. One of the documents I faxed, which held some of my original drawings, was dated 8/4/2004; pretty amazing how much time it all takes. It is important, however, to simply keep at it, little by little, because things do fall into place with a plan and patience. As many say, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

(5) Multiple Fronts

This week was very productive; finally reaching out and getting buy-in and participation from a selected few. Somewhat apprehensive about truly sharing all the ideas, background, intentions etc., but feel protected by having taken methodical actions. These include executing an NDA with a designer, and following through on patent lawyer discussions AFTER the provisional patent was submitted and accepted.

Regarding the NDA, I first searched around online and kept coming back to patentcafe.com...they had a variety of NDA types, and I ordered three (for dealing with a lawyer, for dealing with a designer, and for continual correspondence with anyone). All had to be edited slightly, and the patentcafe disclaimers removed. When I sent one of these proposed NDAs to the designer, he immediately responded that he wasn't quite ready to deal with such a complicated NDA, so he sent me one back that he's used to using. From 3 pages to 3 sentences; the lesson learned is that an experienced designer will likely have a usable NDA.

The designer was found first through an Internet search. I looked for plastic prototype manufacturers and designers, located in Virginia. Eventually came across the online Thomas Register, which has been since an invaluable source of information regarding manufacturers, potential suppliers of materials and information regarding parts, etc. This site led me to a fairly local design/prototyping shop, who said they couldn't immediately help, but would refer my request to some who could. The local shop was owned by someone with a good industry reputation and many appearances/publications (as confirmed by Google), so I was confident that my correspondence would be held in confidence. My initial correspondence, including an excerpt from the provisional patent and the drawings, were created by faxing the drawings to an online service Maxemail (which creates a .PDF file as email), and emailing the information via secure channel directly to the owner. Thus I had an audit trail of items sent and received. The materials were labeled 'proprietary and confidential to myself', and other markings to the effect that these are intended only for direct use by the recipient, and any other use prohibited.

Note many of the ideas and instruction for embarking on this journey were guided very adequately not only by online sources, but by the publication "Patent it Yourself", a NOLO publication by David Pressman. Excellent resource, got me all the way through submission of the provisional patent.

The phone conversation with the lawyer's office was very productive. I had paid $450 for a patent search, after finding a reputable patent-centric law office online and in the area. The patent search was successful, in that it validated my idea was in fact a new one. This was a very heady revelation, to understand that one has just thought of an idea not yet thought of (or at least publically revealed) anywhere in the civilized world, since patents themselves were invented. Very cool. The search results were prepared in a very thick binder, over 40 relevant items, which did relate to varying extents to my idea, but none were really close at all. The Law Office recommended proceeding with a non-provisional patent application.

The conversation with this office was with a licensed patent agent, someone who had been a USPTO Patent Examiner and was not therefore nearly as expensive as an actual patent attorney (more appropriate for defending your patent, or dealing with a very complex one). I had searched for patent lawyers online, and ran across this class of professional; the law firm I eventually contacted had both, and this person was the first to review my 'docket' or case, and provide all the information I'd need to proceed. More on that conversation later.

The conversation with the designer yielded several references for initial consultation (mostly independent persons who could more or less work with me in limited stages). I contacted one (after again consulting Google; this outfit, their owner and their website held up to critical scrutiny and obvious industry acceptance). After several back and forths, including again emailing some of my PPA content (after an NDA exchange), I spoke at length about the idea. The designer was very intrigued by the idea, and in fact went looking around his house a couple of times during the conversation to run down further ideas or explanation to help understand the concept. Next step was some additional market research, then to meet in person with the designer, and have him prepare a proposal for the first stage of our relationship, a proof-of-concept model with which to examine elements of the idea relating to physics, stress, target market segment, size, placement, and overall utility. He quoted $120/hr for about 20-25 hours worth of work, which included creating a working model out of various parts and aluminum, using all his shop tools.

At this time, presented with two major expenses (proceeding to file the non-provisional patent, which would cost around $8000, and take up to 2 years), and shelling out up to $3000 for the working model, I'm electing to do the model first....it's important in my opinion to make sure of the item to be patented, such that the non-provisional can be as accurate as possible. Plus, I need to make headway on producing an actual product, before anyone else (though I do have patent-pending protection), and perhaps some revenue.

Friday, February 04, 2005

(4) Search Results

Paid $450 to a patent-related Law Firm I found online to execute a patent search; mainly to corroborate my own online searches with things I may not have found, along with foreign patents and older patents not published online. Success! Nobody in the entire world seems to have come up with my idea, although there were some that were close (but no cigar!). It's an amazing feeling, unless of course there are several patent pending efforts going on there already, that simply haven't been published. We'll see, over the next several years.

The Patent search included about 30 somewhat-relevant results; all of which I'll have to reference to some degree as 'prior art', and then also reference in terms of improvments my own invention makes on them. An improvements there are, in terms of design, utility, usefulness, usage, etc.

I had been making incremental steps at getting a designer to consult with and start down the prototyping road; first step was putting together an NDA. Waiting for the search results had delayed this activity somewhat; now with this professional validation (although not guaranteed!) that my invention is patentable and in fact unique (though not necessarily marketable!), progress will accelerate on the NDA and design/prototyping stages.