7 Common Patent Myths

Debunking Intellectual Property Myths

When you are a patent attorney, certain questions seem to come up in your practice again and again. Many of these relate to popular misconceptions about the world of patents and what they actually do and don’t do.

Below are some of the most common patent myths. This is in no way a comprehensive list, as many other misunderstandings are out there. That’s just one of the reasons why it is sensible for inventors to work with an experienced patent attorney when they are ready to protect their invention. An intellectual property lawyer is there to help you sort through the myths so that you can obtain the broadest and most meaningful patent protection that is available.

Myth No. 1: The patent office will monitor to see if anyone is infringing my patent.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. The function of a department of the government like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is to decide whether or not a patent should be granted for a particular technology. Once a patent is issued, it is the responsibility of the owner to enforce their rights. This may mean having to bring an infringement action against an allegedly infringing party.

Myth No. 2: Obtaining a U.S. patent gives me patent rights around the world.

If an inventor obtains a U.S. patent, then that patent is only enforceable in the U.S. If the inventor wants to have enforceable patent rights in another jurisdiction, then they must apply for a patent in each of those countries. Inventors who discover that an overseas competitor is making a knock-off version of their product can take legal action to prevent those products from being imported into the U.S., but they may not be able to stop their manufacture in the foreign country unless they have a patent there.

Myth No. 3: A positive patentability search means that I’ll definitely get a patent.

Patent attorneys frequently encourage their clients to have a patentability search performed before they proceed with filing an application. Such a search can be an informative way to find out whether or not patent protection may be available for the invention and the probable scope of that protection.

However, patentability searches are never perfect. It’s impossible to uncover every existing prior art reference that might affect the patentability of a certain invention. That’s especially true in the case of newly filed patent applications that have not been published at the time of the search. These references won’t appear in the search because they are not publicly available. Nonetheless, by the time your invention is being reviewed by an examiner at the USPTO, he may cite that application as prior art if it has been published in the interim.

Accordingly, a patentability search can help you decide whether or not it is business reasonable to proceed with filing a patent application, but it cannot ultimately determine whether or not you will get a patent or the scope of protection that you will receive.

Myth No. 4: I have no competitors, so I don’t need a patent.

When you have invented technology that you believe is totally novel, then it’s natural to assume that no one else is doing exactly the same thing that you are. However, what happens when your product or service hits the marketplace and becomes a huge success? How long will it be before competitors start coming out of the woodwork?

If you obtain patent protection for an item that is genuinely novel and inventive, then you have the right to prevent others from copying and profiting from your ingenuity. Without a patent, you’ll be facing an impossible battle.

Myth No. 5: The patent’s drawings show what’s really protected by the patent.

Many people have this misconception, but unless you are aiming for a design patent, which is used to protect the overall look of a product, then it is the written claims rather than the drawings that really express what’s protected by the patent.

Drawings provide visual representations of examples of the invention. However, it is the claims that particularly point out or specify the subject matter that is covered by the patent. Writing and interpreting patent claims are two incredibly difficult tasks that are best left to a patent attorney.

Myth No. 6: Ideas are patentable.

A great idea is just that: An idea. It is not possible to obtain patent protection for an idea or a concept. Instead, patent law requires inventors to reduce their inventions to practice or constructive reduction to practice.

Essentially, to be patentable, the technology must be built or readily could be built by someone familiar with the technology.

Myth No. 7: I don’t copy anyone else’s products, so I can’t infringe their patents.

The claims of a patent can be incredibly subtle and nuanced. Interpreting their exact meaning is rarely straightforward. Even if you believe that your product doesn’t infringe on anyone’s patent rights, that might not necessarily be the case.

In fact, you don’t have to be aware of a patent or a patented product in order to infringe those patent rights. A cease-and-desist letter from the patent owner’s attorney may be the first inkling you have that there is an issue.

Explore Patent Rights with Williams IP Law

Are you ready to find out more about patents and how they can protect your innovations? Contact the Williams IP Law today to schedule a free consultation.

Should I Seek Invention Help?

Many of our initial consultations revolve around people seeking to understand if they need help with their inventions or getting their inventions to the masses.

Be wary if you go into any kind of consultation with a firm that purports to help inventors do it all, and remember the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The unfortunate reality is that many invention help companies are really only in it for themselves. How can you know which ones are legitimate and which ones are just interested in taking you for a ride?

Marketing and Promotions

One giveaway is that the company claims to both pursue patent protection and handle marketing promotions. These are entirely separate processes, with each one requiring a very specific set of skills and expertise.

Pursuing patent protection is best left in the hands of an experienced attorney who focuses on this area of the law. This is because a patent application will be examined by an attorney who works for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Accordingly, it is necessary for the application to comply with numerous legal requirements. It typically is necessary for the applicant to make legal arguments to the Examiner at the patent office regarding the patentability of the invention. A patent lawyer is qualified to make amendments and arguments that are more likely to result in an issued patent.

As far as promotion is concerned, a patent attorney isn’t truly qualified to help. This means that it is necessary for some kind of marketing and advertising professional to take over.

This means that a legitimate invention help company will need to have at least two distinct departments: One that pursues patents and one that handles promotions.

Unless the company can introduce you to dedicated professionals in these two distinct areas, you’re probably wasting your money.

Invention Rejection Rates

If you are interviewing an invention help company, ask them about their product rejection rates. Ideally, you want to hear them name a high rejection rate. This demonstrates a commitment to only working with inventors who seem to have a superior invention. They pour all of their efforts into a product that they believe in, and the rest go into the rejection pile.

On the other hand, if the invention help company says that they accept most inventions, take your time and money elsewhere. This is a sign of a company that isn’t primarily interested in bringing the best products to market. Instead, their goal is to get as much money out of inventors as they can.

Up Front Payments

Similarly, you may want to think twice about invention companies that demand up-front payments. Without a doubt, it is expensive to get a new product from the idea stage to being on store shelves, but be wary of any company that promises to get the job done for a really low price.

Chances are good that this company is not genuinely interested in bringing your product to the market. The company forces initial buy-ins to get their hands on your wallet. Suddenly, extra costs start to emerge. At the same time, company representatives seem reluctant to provide you with even a ballpark estimate of how much the whole process is likely to cost.

This is a major red flag, as is an offer of financing. Be especially wary if financing is available, but only if you act right now. The company is demonstrating their commitment to getting your money and their lack of interest in anything else. Don’t let high-pressure sales tactics reel you in. Take your time, and make a carefully considered decision.

The reality is that taking a new product from a great idea to a tangible item that people can use is a lot of hard work. The dedication of various professionals may be required to make your dream come true.

Other Warning Signs

Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has taken steps to warn inventors against blindly trusting companies that say they exist to help inventors get their new products to market. One of the primary warning signs of a scam, according to the USPTO, is the fact that the company advertises their services on the Internet, television or radio. These ads often say that anyone who responds will get a free inventor’s kit or a complimentary review of their invention. Most of these ads are only designed to lure you in.

Another telltale sign of a scam is a company representative telling you that a market evaluation must be completed, and this necessary step may cost several hundreds of dollars. Frequently, the companies simply take your money and don’t actually perform an evaluation. Nonetheless, you will receive a glowingly positive report that convinces you to invest even more money.

Guaranteed Patent?

Further, beware of any company that guarantees that you will receive a patent or your money will be returned to you. Even for the most experienced patent attorney, it is impossible to guarantee that a patent will be obtained. Too many factors are involved. A reputable lawyer can predict the odds of patentability, but will never make guarantees as this is plainly unethical.

The Other Issues

So what is the problem? We receive multiple calls a month from disgruntled and upset customers to these types of companies. The issues we predominantly hear about are as follows:

  1. Lack of communication except when more money is needed.
  2. Ever increasing fees to do the original quoted package.
  3. Failed performance on engineering work.
  4. Failed marketing – refusal to give any status or who has been spoken to about the invention.
  5. Stuck in making payments for nothing.
  6. No accountability for promises made.

In general, it boils down to too much money in all the wrong places. Over the years, we have become very familiar with how these companies operate. The statistics are heavily weighted against you. So what can be done?

Typically the best thing to do is to seek a patent attorney’s help if you want a patent or to check a potential invention. They can guide you through the process and meet with you directly. They can help with negotiations, licensing, and trademarks too. For engineering, contact an engineer. Some patent attorneys know engineers willing to help (with a fee naturally) and can give you the guidance you need. With respect to marketing, there is no easy way around it. Your efforts are necessary unless you have large amounts of cash to put into marketing agencies. The process is doable for those that put forth the effort. We have seen it happen with our clients.

Williams IP Law has made it a point to network and compile a team of different companies, incubators, or individuals that can help assist you during the invention process. Contact us for a free consultation.

Who Invented Direct Current?

Alessandro Volta

Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist and chemist who is credited as the inventor of the electric battery and the discoverer of methane. He was born in Como, Italy, on February 18, 1745. In 1794, he married an aristocratic lady also from Como, Teresa Peregrini, with whom he raised three sons: Zanino, Flaminio, and Luigi.

Volta’s early work focused on the study of electricity. In 1775, he improved the electrophorus, a device used to generate static electricity. In 1776, he discovered and isolated methane gas. In 1799, he invented the voltaic pile, the first battery. The voltaic pile was a simple and reliable source of electric current, which allowed scientists to study electricity better than they could with previous sources, such as the Leyden jar.

Volta’s work on the voltaic pile had a profound impact on the development of electricity. It led to the development of new technologies, such as the telegraph and the electric light bulb. Volta was also a pioneer in the study of electromagnetism. He discovered that electricity and magnetism were related, and he developed a theory of electromagnetism that was later refined by Michael Faraday.

Volta was a member of the Royal Society of London and the French Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Copley Medal in 1791 and the Rumford Medal in 1800. He was also made a count by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Volta died in Como on March 5, 1827. He is considered one of the most important scientists of the 18th century, and his work laid the foundation for the development of modern electricity.

In his honor, the unit of electrical potential difference, the volt, is named after him.

Hippolyte Pixii

Hippolyte Pixii was a French instrument maker who is best known for inventing the first electrical generator in 1832. The generator was based on the principle of electromagnetic induction, which was discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831. Pixii’s generator produced alternating current, which was later converted to direct current by André-Marie Ampère.

Pixii was born in Paris in 1808. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a builder of scientific instruments. He died in Paris in 1835 at the age of 27.

Pixii’s invention was a significant breakthrough in the development of electricity. It paved the way for the development of more efficient generators, which eventually led to the widespread use of electricity.

In addition to his work on generators, Pixii also made contributions to the study of electromagnetism. He invented a device called the commutator, which allowed alternating current to be converted to direct current. He also developed a number of other instruments for measuring electrical quantities.

Pixii’s work was highly influential in the development of electricity. He is considered one of the pioneers of electrical engineering.

Here are some of Hippolyte Pixii’s notable achievements:

  • In 1832, he built the first electrical generator, which produced alternating current.
  • He invented the commutator, which allowed alternating current to be converted to direct current.
  • He developed a number of other instruments for measuring electrical quantities.
  • His work was highly influential in the development of electricity.

Pixii’s contributions to the development of electricity are still felt today. His work helped to pave the way for the widespread use of electricity, which has had a profound impact on our lives.

In the late 1800s, American inventor Thomas Edison developed a practical system for distributing DC electricity. Edison’s system was used to power the first commercial electric lights in New York City in 1882.

DC electricity was the dominant form of electrical power for many years. However, in the early 1900s, alternating current (AC) began to replace DC as the preferred form of electrical power for power transmission and distribution.

There are several reasons why AC was eventually adopted over DC. First, AC can be easily stepped up and down in voltage, which makes it more efficient to transmit over long distances. Second, AC can be used to power motors, which are essential for many industrial applications.

Today, DC is still used in some applications, such as batteries, computers, and electronic devices. However, AC is the most common form of electrical power for power transmission and distribution.

Who else contributed to the invention of DC?

In addition to Volta, Pixii and Thomas Edison, there were several other scientists and engineers who contributed to the invention of DC. These include:

  • Michael Faraday, an English physicist who discovered electromagnetic induction in 1831.
  • George Westinghouse, an American inventor who developed a practical system for distributing AC electricity in the late 1800s.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of DC?

DC has several advantages over AC, including:

  • It is more efficient for some applications, such as batteries and electronic devices.
  • It is less likely to cause interference with other electrical devices.

However, DC also has some disadvantages, including:

  • It is more difficult to transmit over long distances.
  • It cannot be used to power motors as easily as AC.

What is the future of DC?

DC is still used in some applications, but it is no longer the dominant form of electrical power. However, there is some interest in using DC for some applications, such as high-speed data transmission. It is possible that DC will see a resurgence in the future, but for now, AC is the most common form of electrical power.

I hope this blog has answered your question about who invented direct current. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

Patent Litigation

Patent attorneys spend most of their time working to obtain patent protection for their clients. However, their careers involve a second critical facet, that of pursuing patent litigation.

If you are concerned that someone is infringing your patent, or if someone has accused you of infringing their patent rights, contact Williams IP Law today. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more about patent litigation and why it’s important.

Defining Patent Litigation

When one party believes that another party is using their patented technology without permission, then the patent holder may choose to file a civil lawsuit against the allegedly infringing party. Typically, these legal actions are filed in a federal district court, and the plaintiff may ask for relief such as monetary damages and an injunction that prevents the infringer from using the protected technology.

The law requires that patent holders take action against an alleged infringer no more than six years after the infringing date.

The Importance of Patent Litigation

People obtain patents because they want to have the exclusive right to benefit from their hard work. Nonetheless, it is not unusual for another person or entity to infringe those rights. Thanks to patent litigation, it is possible for the wronged party to take the infringer to court.

Before beginning a lawsuit, it is critical to know that patent litigation is costly and that it can take years to settle a case. In many situations, the plaintiff is an individual or a small company while the defendant is a huge corporation with deep pockets.

Accordingly, it can be highly challenging for the plaintiff to prevail.

Penalties in Patent Litigation

When a plaintiff does win their case, then the court may impose one or more penalties on the defendant. These penalties may include actual damages, which are the profits that the patent holder lost due to the infringement, and royalties for the unauthorized use of the technology. Royalties usually are calculated based on other royalty agreements already in existence, the remaining term of the patent and the type of product that is covered by the patent.

The defendant also may be required to pay the legal costs incurred by the plaintiff. These may include attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and court filing fees.

Other possible penalties include an exclusion order through the International Trade Commission or a negotiated settlement. A negotiated settlement effectively ends the lawsuit without having to go to trial. However, negotiated settlements also may occur during the trial, giving the parties a chance to decide on a settlement that is not dictated by the judge.

In a negotiated settlement, the attorneys decide upon the appropriate monetary award for the plaintiff. This is the route that approximately 70 percent of all patent infringement lawsuits take, and these settlements are most frequently achieved within about one year of litigation. By contrast, only four percent of such lawsuits go to a judge’s decision at the end of trial.

The parties involved in a patent lawsuit alternatively may decide to settle their differences via mediation or arbitration rather than going to trial. Mediation can be an excellent means for avoiding the costs of a trial, and the process frequently leads to a settlement.

While defendants who lose a patent lawsuit frequently are ordered to pay penalties and costs, this may not be the end of the consequences. The court may decide to place a preliminary or permanent injunction on the infringer. A preliminary injunction may be issued at the start of the lawsuit if the plaintiff can demonstrate that they have a high probability of winning the case. The patent holder further must prove that they will suffer financial hardship if manufacturing and selling of the infringing product continues, and the preliminary injunction may be granted if there is no harm to the public’s interest or opinion.

Preliminary injunctions are rare because the standards for obtaining them are high.

At the end of the case, the court may grant a permanent injunction that prevents the infringer from manufacturing products with the infringing technology.

Patent Litigation Basics

Both federal and state laws cover patent litigation. Most lawsuits are concerned only with the federal patent laws. State patent laws are mainly focused on questions of patent ownership and contractual law.

Federal district courts handle patent litigation matters. Their responsibilities include interpreting the Constitution and the federal statutes, creating new laws, applying the federal rules of evidence to cases and applying the federal rules of civil procedure.

Another party that is critical to the patent process is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. This is the government department that is responsible for examining patent applications and issuing patents. Many patent litigation cases begin in an office of the USPTO known as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. When issues cannot be resolved at this level, then the parties may decide to file a lawsuit in federal court.

Who Has the Right to Sue?

In general, the co-owners of a patent, the patent holder or an exclusive licensee of the patent have standing to sue an alleged infringer. It is not possible for non-exclusive licensees or distributors to sue for patent infringement.

Who does the patent holder sue? Usually, it is the person or entity that produces, sells, imports or uses the product that infringes the patent. The plaintiff also may choose to sue any person or entity that contributes to these activities.

Employees of a company may be personally liable for the infringement, but the company’s directors are not necessarily liable as well. A person is only considered liable if they had either indirect or direct knowledge of the patent infringement and they had willful blindness. Willful blindness refers to steps taken to avoid learning about the patent itself.

The courts have the discretion to add or remove parties that are suing or parties that are being sued.

The Types of Patent Infringement

Assessing patent infringement involves comparing the patent claims and the allegedly infringing product.

It may be discovered that literal infringement has occurred, in which case a direct relationship is established between the product and the words included in the claims of the patent.

Contributory infringement may occur when a third-party is responsible for giving the infringing party a component that has no utility beyond creating an infringing product.

When the infringer intentionally disregards someone else’s patent, then willful infringement may have taken place.

Infringement may be either direct or indirect. Direct infringement involves a competitor manufacturing a copy of another company’s product without the permission of the patent holder while indirect infringement occurs when a person or entity assists a third party to make a product that infringes a patent.

Even if the court determines that no actual infringement is occurring, it is possible that the doctrine of equivalents will come into play. This doctrine broadly states that a product may infringe a patent if it produces similar results in the same way. While the doctrine of equivalents does have limitations, it can be a powerful tool in patent litigation.

Defenses for Patent Infringement

What if you find yourself in the unenviable position of being sued for patent infringement? The best course of action is to engage the services of a skilled patent litigation attorney. This legal professional will have numerous defenses that can be used to fight the allegations.

These defenses may include proving that the patent at issue is not novel and that its claims are obvious to someone who is skilled in the art. Your attorney may uncover false information provided by the patent holder to the USPTO when they applied for the patent.

Arguments against the patent’s usefulness, a lack of description or the definiteness of the claims similarly may be available. Other defenses also may prove useful.

Get Legal Counsel First

Whether you believe that your patent is being infringed or you are being sued for patent infringement, it is critical that you do nothing before speaking with a qualified patent litigation lawyer.

At the outset of such a complicated legal matter, it is impossible to know how things might turn out in the end. The things that you say and do in the beginning of the case may make things more complicated for you down the road.

If you receive a letter from a person or company claiming that your products are infringing their patent, call an attorney before making any kind of reply.

Similarly, if you stumble across a product that you believe infringes your patent, it is always wisest to contact an intellectual property lawyer before taking any steps.

These legal professionals are adept at interpreting the claims of patents and comparing products to those claims. With their assistance, you can begin to either enforce your patent rights or refute the allegations of infringement made by a patent holder.

The critical thing is to remain calm. Then, ask for legal advice. Many of these situations can be resolved with a couple of letters and perhaps a few telephone conferences. Most of them never turn into lawsuits. Going to trial is even rarer.

When you work with competent legal counsel, you stand a much better chance of achieving the outcome you are hoping for.

Contact Williams IP Law

Jeff Williams and the staff at Williams IP Law have helped many clients deal with patent litigation. These situations can be complex and immensely challenging, but with the right experience and legal knowledge, it frequently is possible to resolve them well before a lawsuit or a trial is necessary.

Contact Jeff Williams today to schedule a consultation about any potential patent litigation matters.

Patent Trolls: Two Cases Against Apple

Patent Troll Claim #1

The news broke that Thomas Ross from Florida is requesting $10 Billion from Apple due to infringement on a patent application he made in 1992. Ross would also like a 1.5% royalty on all future sales of iOS devices.

The basis of the lawsuit is based on drawings Ross made in 1992 for an “electronic reading device” or ERD.

  • So what do you think?
  • Does it resemble an iPhone in any way?
  • Does it possibly resemble any early eBook readers or smartphones?

The Issues With The Claim

There are several problems with Ross’ claim though. There are the basic drawings that don’t appear Apple device like. And there is the elephant in the room – his patent application was actually abandoned after he failed to pay the patent registration fees.

The lawsuit claims Ross was “the first to file a device so designed and aggregated as to have created a novel combination of media and communication tools… whose identity was, since then, hijacked and exploited by Apple’s iPhones, iPods, iPads and others”.

The lawsuit further claims that Apple’s devices “are substantially the same as his technical drawings of the ERD, and that Apple’s three-dimensional derivative devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad), embody the non-functional aesthetic look and feel”.

This isn’t the first time Apple has been attacked by patent trolls. Judging by the results, it most likely will not be the last time either.

The Case

In June 2019 the Beijing Intellectual Property Office heard a case originally filed in 2014. Baili Marketing Services Inc. of Shenzhen China claimed that Apple had copied its design of their 100C smartphone for the iPhone 6/6 Plus.

The Beijing Intellectual Property Office sided with Baili and issued an injunction. Apple was ordered to remove iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones from the shelves. Apple of course appealed the ruling and the product is still on the shelves in Beijing stores, for now.

Apple is anxious to continue penetration of the Chinese market and this is a definite setback that Apple may have to settle.

It also appears that this is just another case of a patent trolling group. The Wall Street Journal investigated and discovered that Baili Marketing is a company that “barely exists” and is owned by Digione. Digione products have been off the market for over a year because their devices are considered “buggy”.

Unfortunately for Apple, this does not matter as the issue is patent infringement, not device quality. This move could be big for Digione however.

Patent Troll Claim #2

Apple is also facing legal woes over FaceTime. Several companies have sued Apple over its voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology due to patent infringements. Straight Path Group claims Apple has violated five different patents dating back to 9/25/1995.

These patents were owned and used in the WebPhone product by NetSpeak. The patents were examined again and validated by PTAB (Patent Trial and Appeals Board). Straight Path patent details using a database and device IP addresses to determine if a device is available or offline. Their claim is that Apple is tracking user IP addresses through Push Network and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol, a VoIP protocol). It also claims that Apple has infringed on technology the WebPhone used to use.

Since WebPhone has not been around for over a decade, this also seems to be a case of patent trolling.

The Case

Apple has also been sued by others over FaceTime, including VoIP-Pal and VirtnetX. These companies can also be considered “trolls” since they own patents but show little desire to commercially develop them or create products. In 2012 they were awarded $368 million and a 1% running royalty off all iPhone and iPad revenues. Apple requested a retrial and VirtnetX demanded Apple shut down FaceTime.

In the retrial which ended in February 2016, the $368 million verdict and 1% royalty were overturned; however, the East Texas jury awarded VirnetX a whopping $625.6 million (but no running royalty).

Expect Apple to appeal again, but VirnetX may seek to add a “running royalty” on their products.

Apple’s success will make it a perpetual target for those who seek to gain off their fortune. Though Apple may win most contests, in many more it may have to settle just to keep their products on shelves. There will also be some losses. Due to their size and success, when they lose, they will lose big.

So what are your thoughts? Are patent trolls stifling innovation and progress?

5 Inventions That Were Accidents

Some inventions only come into being after months or years of innovation, research and development. Others come about quite by accident. In fact, some inventions that come about by accident are among those that are the most famous and enduring.

Here’s a look at a few of those inventions. Remember, when you’re creating something new, you don’t always arrive at your intended destination. Nonetheless, you just might find that you’ve invented something that is of benefit to everyone.

1. Post-It Notes

It’s hard to believe that Post-It Notes haven’t been a part of the office forever. Believe it or not, the now-ubiquitous little slips of paper that are equipped with just the right amount of adhesive first came on the scene in the 1970s.

In 1968, scientist Dr. Spencer Silver was trying to formulate an extremely strong adhesive, but his efforts unintentionally resulted in an extremely weak adhesive. Despite things not going according to plan, Silver suspected that his new invention was worthwhile. Unfortunately, his colleagues didn’t agree at first.

One of those colleagues eventually decided that the adhesive might be useful if it were applied to bookmarks. This colleague, Arthur Fry, worked with Silver to develop these adhesive bookmarks, and this later evolved into adhesive notes that could be written on.

Post-It Notes debuted on the market in 1979, and the rest is history.

2. Velcro

Swiss engineer George de Mestral was frustrated by the stubborn burrs that always stuck to his clothing and his pet’s fur when he was out on dog walks. Closer inspection revealed that the burrs were equipped with tiny hooks that enabled them to stick to almost anything with ease. Using this natural design as inspiration, de Mestral developed a new fastening system that was built upon this concept. Eventually, that fastening system was named Velcro, and it’s now familiar to people all around the globe.

3. Penicillin

Scottish bacteriologist Dr. Alexander Fleming was merely returning from vacation when he discovered cultures of Staphylococcus aureus in his lab. He’d intended to throw away those cultures before leaving for vacation, and when he examined them now, he found that some of them had died.

Fleming studied this development, only to learn that a certain fungus had grown within the cultures, and that this fungus had actually destroyed the bacteria. The fungus was a mold known as Penicillium notatum.

Fleming received assistance from Australian pathologist Howard Walter Florey and British biochemist Sir Ernst Boris Chain, who were responsible for isolating and purifying penicillin so that it could be prepared for clinical use.

Initially, Fleming called his discovery “mold juice” before deciding on the less objectionable name “penicillin. This accidental discovery has since saved countless lives.

4. Implantable Pacemaker

Irregular heartbeat is a health concern for many people, but an implantable pacemaker can help to regulate a strong, steady and predictable beat.

Implantable pacemakers are battery-powered devices that are inserted beneath a patient’s skin. As it delivers electrical pulses, the pacemaker induces the heart to beat in a regular rhythm.

Believe it or not, the implantable pacemaker also is an accidental invention. Engineer Wilson Greatbatch was hoping to invent a device that could record the rhythm of people’s heartbeats. However, during his experiments, Greatbatch employed a resistor in the circuit that was the wrong size. This caused the device to create intermittent electrical impulses that sounded a lot like the human heartbeat.

Pacemaker machines were already in use in medical facilities, but they were impossible to move, painful and inconveniently large.

Greatbatch soon learned that it was possible for his invention to be used to place electrodes directly to the heart’s muscle tissue, which would keep the patient’s heart beating in the appropriate rhythm. This meant that patients could benefit from a pacemaker without being stuck at the hospital.

Working with Dr. William Chardack and Dr. Ander Gage, Greatbatch made the pacemaker smaller and implanted it in a dog as an experiment. By 1960, the first portable pacemaker was implanted in a patient. He lived for an additional 18 months. Since then, the technology has been extensively refined and perfected.

5. Play-Doh

Most adults today grew up playing with Play-Doh, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, Play-Doh wasn’t even a toy in the beginning.

Instead, it was a cleaning product developed by soap maker Kutol Products for use in households across the country. Kutol Products wasn’t doing well, and they were faced with going out of business by the end of the 1920s. Nonetheless, employee Cleo McVicker entered into a contract with grocery store chain known as Kroger to develop a wallpaper cleaner.

Using ordinary ingredients like flour, salt and water, Kutol Products produced a compound that could safely and efficiently clean wallpaper. This product kept the company afloat for a few decades, but sales were floundering again by the 1950s. McVicker’s son, Joseph, was inspired to re-imagine the cleaning product as a children’s toy.

Joseph’s sister-in-law, Kay Zufall, was a teacher, and she invited Joseph to bring the wallpaper cleaner to her classroom to see how the children played with it. After seeing how much the students enjoyed it, Joseph knew he had an idea that was destined for success.

The ingredients were altered, and Kutol Products established another entity, Rainbow Crafts Company Inc., to market Play-Doh.

When Play-Doh was introduced to a national audience on the Captain Kangaroo television show, history was made.

Take the Next Steps with Williams IP Law

Do you have an invention that you think is poised to be the next big deal? If so, then you need the guidance and advice of an experienced intellectual property attorney. Contact Williams IP Law today to schedule a free consultation.

Patent Search or Novelty Search?

If you have an invention, you may be wondering if it is patentable. A patent search can help you answer this question. A patent search is a process of looking for prior art that is similar to your invention. Prior art is any information that was made public before your invention was created. If there is prior art that is similar to your invention, it may not be patentable.

There are two types of patent searches: novelty searches and patentability searches. A novelty search is a limited search that looks for prior art that is identical to your invention. A patentability search is a more comprehensive search that looks for prior art that is similar to your invention, even if it is not identical.

If you are considering filing for a patent, it is important to have a patentability search performed. A patentability search will help you identify any potential problems with your invention. If there is prior art that is similar to your invention, you may be able to file for a patent if you can show that your invention is non-obvious.

What is a Novelty Search?

A novelty search is a type of patent search that looks for prior art that is identical to your invention. The purpose of a novelty search is to determine if your invention is novel. Novelty is one of the requirements for patentability. An invention is novel if it was not known or used by others in the world before the filing date of your patent application.

Here are some of the benefits of conducting a novelty search:

  • Save time and money: A novelty search can help you to avoid wasting time and money on patent applications that are unlikely to be successful.
  • Identify potential problems: A novelty search can help you to identify potential problems with your invention that may need to be addressed before filing a patent application.
  • Increase your chances of getting a patent: A novelty search can help you to increase your chances of getting a patent by identifying prior art that may be relevant to your invention.

What is a Patentability Search?

A patentability search is a more comprehensive type of patent search than a novelty search. A patentability search looks for prior art that is similar to your invention, even if it is not identical. The purpose of a patentability search is to determine if your invention is patentable. Patentability is determined by three factors: novelty, non-obviousness, and usefulness.

The results of a patentability search can be used to:

  • Determine whether an invention is patentable: If the search does not find any prior art that describes the invention, the invention is likely to be patentable.
  • Identify potential problems with an invention: If the search finds prior art that describes the invention, the inventor may need to make changes to the invention in order to make it patentable.
  • Negotiate with potential licensees: If the inventor is considering licensing the invention to a third party, the results of a patentability search can be used to negotiate a fair price for the license.

The Difference Between a Novelty Search and a Patentability Search

The main difference between a novelty search and a patentability search is the scope of the search. A novelty search only looks for prior art that is identical to your invention. A patentability search looks for prior art that is similar to your invention, even if it is not identical.

When to Conduct a Novelty Search

A novelty search is a good option if you are considering filing for a patent and you want to determine if your invention is novel. A novelty search can help you identify any potential problems with your invention. If there is prior art that is identical to your invention, you may not be able to obtain a patent.

When to Conduct a Patentability Search

A patentability search is a good option if you are considering filing for a patent and you want to determine if your invention is patentable. A patentability search can help you identify any potential problems with your invention. If there is prior art that is similar to your invention, you may still be able to obtain a patent if you can show that your invention is non-obvious.


If you have an invention, you may be wondering if it is patentable. A patent search can help you answer this question. A patent search is a process of looking for prior art that is similar to your invention. Prior art is any information that was made public before your invention was created. If there is prior art that is similar to your invention, it may not be patentable.

There are two types of patent searches: novelty searches and patentability searches. A novelty search is a limited search that looks for prior art that is identical to your invention. A patentability search is a more comprehensive search that looks for prior art that is similar to your invention, even if it is not identical.

If you are considering filing for a patent, it is important to have a patentability search performed. A patentability search will help you identify any potential problems with your invention. If there is prior art that is similar to your invention, you may be able to file for a patent if you can show that your invention is non-obvious.

4 Occasions When You Need a Patent Lawyer

If you’ve got a new idea, no matter whether it’s an idea for a new technological invention or for a new, revolutionary type of business, you might be in need of a patent lawyer. Patent lawyers specialize in all forms of intellectual property, including: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Any individual or business looking to bring to market a new or revolutionary product or service should consult with a patent attorney. The main reason is that a patent attorney can advise you on every aspect of intellectual property, patents included. Patent attorneys perform various functions, and there are various instances when you might find yourself in need of a patent lawyer throughout your venture.

It should be noted that patents do not give you the right to make, use or sell your invention. Rather, they exclude other people from making, using, selling or importing your invention in a particular geographic location. Basically, patents are set into place to protect a new idea that you’ve come up with for a set period of time. Patent law can be extremely complicated and often can trip up the inexperienced; therefore, you should seek the advice of qualified patent attorneys like the ones at our law office. We specialize in assisting clients in all forms of intellectual property and can navigate the pitfalls of protection in the best possible way for your needs.

Our patent attorneys here at the Williams IP Law specialize in patent law and trademark law in Dallas, TX. We’re here to help not only inventors but also businesses and entrepreneurs seeking intellectual property right protection. We stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and laws governing patents and trademarks, and other forms of intellectual property.

Getting a Patent Application

One instance where you need a patent attorney is when you’re applying for your patent. A patent attorney has the proper knowledge, skill and know-how to conduct any necessary research to determine whether your idea actually warrants a patent. After conducting research, the lawyer can then craft, file and prosecute your patent application to the end of the process. Oftentimes, the patent application reviewer will find errors or points in your application that need more explanation or revision, and having an experienced patent attorney on your side can ensure that the application process goes as smoothly as possible.

Going Through Patent Litigation

Another instance when you might require the assistance of a patent attorney is when there is an infringement of your property rights. Just as you would require a criminal defense attorney to defend you against any criminal charges, you should seek the assistance of a patent lawyer when somebody has infringed upon your trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual properties. Patent lawyers can do everything from filing an opposition for you to representing you in a court of law throughout your copyright infringement cases. On the flip side, if you are accused of copyright infringement, patent lawyers can defend you from such accusations as well.

Licensing Challenges

Sometimes licensing challenges might arise with intellectual property rights, and patent lawyers like those at our law office are the ones to turn to when you need these challenges tackled. Patent lawyers know the appropriate procedures and tactics to take to combat licensing challenges and ensure that your patents, trademarks and copyrights stay legal and intact. For instance, if you grant a license to another party to make and use your patented articles, you need to make sure that everything is done clearly, concisely and according to the book to help prevent any future challenges. Patent lawyers are just the ones to oversee licensing and any obstacles pertaining to it.

Negotiating Contracts

You might also be in need of a patent lawyer if you’re in the process of negotiating a contract. Patent lawyers can ensure that your best interests are kept in mind when you’re negotiating terms with other individuals or businesses. For instance, when you license off your artwork, making sure that you negotiate a good royalty deal is essential for ensuring that you maximize your profits. Patent attorneys can ensure that you receive the best royalties, terms, gross and net sales and deductions for the licensing of your patents, trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property.

No matter what type of intellectual property you need, assistance from a patent lawyer within our team of attorneys is more than amply equipped to assist you.