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How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners

Part 1: Common Patent Mistakes To listen to this blog, press play below:   I’ve heard it before. Stories that start off with - “I paid a lot of money to get a patent on one of my products, and now someone else is making it! I can’t believe that they can change one little thing, and now my patent doesn’t protect me!” I see this happen all the time to people that I wish knew everything that I’m about to tell you. Here’s how to understand patent claims and protect your invention. Many brilliant people like you - scientists, engineers, professors, and other business professionals, often run to large law firms to secure a patent. Unfortunately without understanding patent law - how do you know if you’re getting your money's worth? A big named business doesn’t automatically mean big quality. Does Taco Bell mean quality Mexican food? Large law firms are billing machines. They place enormous pressure on partners and associates to crank out billable hours. To maximize profits, the associates with the least experience are assigned to draft patent applications for universities and small businesses. Even then, large firms only budget about 20 - 25 hours to discuss…


Part 2: Understanding Patents

How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginner You can listen to this article below:   This is the second post in my Series entitled How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners. In this post we’ll discuss the context, rights, limitations, and parts of a patent. If you missed the first post click here to see why 97% of patents are ineffective, and what you can do to be sure your patent doesn’t become part of this statistic. To truly know why understanding a patent is so important, I have to tell you the story of a friend of mine. He was sitting in his first meeting at a major chemical company listening to a group of chemists discussing a challenge that they were facing... it wasn’t going well. Management had assigned them the critical task of making a molecule, but while conducting their research the chemists found a U.S. patent that discussed several ways to make the molecule. The chemists kept pouring over the patent again and again, but the patent discussed every possible way to make the molecule. They had spent several months trying to find other ways to make it. None of them worked.…


Part 3: How To Protect Your Idea

How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners You can listen to this article below:   This is the third post in my series entitled How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners. In this post, we’ll discuss the various parts of a patent claim, but if you missed Part 2 on Understanding Patents, be sure to go back and review after reading this post. How Do I Read Patent Claims? To understand how patent claims work let me give you an illustration of how patent attorneys interpret claims. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther supposedly met with the protestant leaders at Marburg to determine if they could reconcile their differences and unite into a single protestant church. The stakes couldn’t have been higher! They agreed on every point... except for one. Martin interpreted the biblical phrase “this is my body” to literally mean that the bread of communion became the flesh of Jesus Christ. However, the protestant leaders interpreted the phrase to be symbolic. In their mind, this couldn’t be taken literally. There was no apparent physical change or scientific explanation for that statement. Taken in context, Jesus must have meant it symbolically. The protestant leaders argued…


Part 4: The Most Common Types of Claims

How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners Listen to this article below:   This is the fourth post in my series entitled How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners. In this post, we’ll discuss three special types of claims that are also very common. If this is the first blog that you’re reading in the series, it would be a good idea to also read the second post on understanding patents. If you need a few tips on how to read patent claims then Blog 3 is for you. Now let’s discuss the three most common types of patent claims and what you should know about each one. The Markush Claim? A Markush claim is a patent claim that contains a special phrase. The classical Markush format is “selected from the group consisting of (a list of possibilities) and (one last possibility).” For example, a Markush claim for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich might read as follows: A square sandwich for satisfying hunger comprising: a first piece of white bread and a second piece of white bread; a peanut butter layer; and a jelly layer, wherein the jelly layer contains a plant material selected from…


Part 5: How A Product Claim Can Protect Your Product

This is the fifth post in the How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners series. You can listen to this blog below:   If you read part two in the series on understanding patents, then you know that only the claim section of issued patents can be used to sue for patent infringement. If you read the third post, How To Protect Your Idea, then you have a few tips for reading patent claims. Will My Patent Claims Protect My Product? There is no definitive way to guarantee that your claims draft will protect your innovation, especially given the constant evolution of patent law that can change the way claims are interpreted by the courts. To give you an example - the claims that you file in a patent application can be thought of as a starting point for negotiations with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As part of this negotiation the USPTO may require that claims be amended in a way that reduces the coverage of the original claims. Additionally, product claims are usually considered much stronger than process claims. One reason is that an infringing product is easier to detect when a competitor imports…


Part 6: Protect Your Method with Method Claims

You can listen to this article below: How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners If you read my blog on understanding patents then you know that only the claim section of an issued patent can be used to sue for patent infringement. If you read my articles on how to protect your patent idea, and how a product claim can protect your product, then you’ve got a good foundation for reviewing claims. Now it’s time to discuss method claims, also referred to as process claims Generally, method claims are claims that recite one or more steps. They are typically used to protect methods of making a product, using a product, or providing a service. Method claims are usually considered much weaker than product claims because method claims can be difficult to enforce. Infringing Methods Are Harder To Detect Unless the method is being practiced in view of the public, the infringement of a method claim is more difficult to detect. The first step of any patent litigation is usually suspecting that a competitor is practicing your invention without your permission. Detecting an infringing product is usually pretty straight forward. It’s usually on the shelf right beside yours. And…


Part 7: How To Prevent Design Around

You can listen to this blog below: How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners This is the seventh post in my series How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners. In the previous articles I’ve discussed how to understand patents, common types of claims, protecting your product or method, and many other topics. Hopefully by now you’re feeling a little more informed about the patent claim process. In this article we’ll discuss how to prevent design around. How Can I Prevent Design Around? The term “design around” is commonly used when referring to some minor change that allows a competitor to avoid infringing the claims of your patent. Depending on your technology, you may not be able to prevent all design around, however you can make it as hard as possible for your competitors to steal your invention. In exchange for disclosing your innovation to the public, the government will grant you a patent that allows you to sue others for using or selling your invention without first requesting permission. The purpose of the patent law system is to encourage the public disclosure of innovation, not to protect you from competition. This may seem like a subtle…


Part 8: How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners

This is the last post in my series - How to Patent an Idea: A Guide for Beginners Thank you for taking the time to read my insights on how to understand patent claims. I hope this information was useful and helped to clear up some of the confusion that comes with pursuing a patent. Here is a quick summary of the main takeaways discussed throughout this series: Patents Only Protect Your Invention In Their Country of Origin. Only Issued Patents Can Be Used To Sue A Competitor. Only The Claims Of A Patent Protect Your Invention.Claims Are Usually Open-Ended: Make Sure That Your Claims Only Recite Essential Aspects Of Your Innovation. Patent Attorneys Are Claims Fundamentalists: Make Sure That Every Word Is Necessary And Not Overly Limiting. Challenge Every Word! Try To Envision All Variations Of Your Innovation And Ask Your Patent Attorney If Your Claim Will Cover That Variation. Find The Bottlenecks Created By Science, Your Application, Or Regulations, And Claim Them. It is up to you to ensure that your patent is valuable, and your ideas are well protected. If your current patent attorney doesn’t seem to have the time to help you prevent design around, Childs…

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