7 Clever Thanksgiving Inventions

If the responsibility for preparing the family’s Thanksgiving feast has ever fallen into your lap, then you probably spent a few anxious weeks getting ready to make certain that all of the details were taken care of. Along the way, you may have found yourself wishing that there was something to make all of that preparation a little easier.

Luckily, inventors throughout the decades have been creating technology that makes preparing for Thanksgiving easier than ever. Take a look at these seven inventions to decide which ones you want to use for Thanksgiving this year.

Method for Forming Biscuits – Zoeller, et al. 1960

method for forming biscuits patent

Most families have at least one member who makes amazing biscuits. Unfortunately, your relative probably never had access to this interesting patent, the application for which was filed by the Pillsbury Co.

According to the patent, the invention was a new method for forming biscuits from a single sheet of dough. The method would actually form the biscuits to make them look as though they had been “spirally wound” like a cinnamon roll.

The powers that be at Pillsbury evidently were concerned that current methods for making fancy biscuits were simply too complicated and time-consuming to be commercially viable. This invention was meant to correct that deficiency.

Preparation of Frozen Stuffed Fowl – Rogers, et al. 1960

frozen stuffed fowl patent

This must have been a very good year for Thanksgiving innovations between the new method for making biscuits and this invention that is supposed to help with stuffing a frozen turkey.

The inventors appear to have felt that waiting for a turkey to defrost so that it can be stuffed is simply too frustrating. In fact, they didn’t think that consumers should have to stuff their turkeys at all.

The solution was to sell a frozen, already-stuffed turkey that could be taken out of the freezer and put immediately into the oven. With one invention, the cook no longer needed to worry about thawing the bird or stuffing it and sewing it up.

Whatever happened to these pre-stuffed fowls? Did they ever make it to the marketplace?

Automatic Mashed Potato System – O’Connor 2007

automatic mashed potato patent

Next to stuffing, mashed potatoes are probably the most popular side dish on Thanksgiving. However, anyone who has ever made mashed potatoes knows that it’s a lot of work, particularly when you’re cooking for a crowd.

This mashed potato patent system even included “a seasoning unit” so that every batch would be seasoned to perfection. In fact, this was the ultimate all-in-one system as the user simply needed to add potatoes and water. The machine cooked the potatoes and had an automated drain to release the water. The seasoning unit then went to work, and then the “mashing apparatus” would mash the cooked potatoes to the perfect consistency.

The only thing this machine didn’t do was peel the potatoes.

Method of Preparing Edible Fowl – Sieczkiewicz 1958

method for preparing fowl patent

The title of this patent sounds rather vague. What it really describes is a method of quickly and easily de-boning a turkey. The genius of this invention is that it made it possible to remove “the bones from an edible fowl in such a manner as to preserve substantially the entire outer skin of the fowl.” Once the bones were removed, the user was intended to stuff and cook the bird in a more attractive and easy to eat manner.

The inventor states that this method means that there is no longer a risk of having to remove or damage the turkey’s skin, which apparently makes the fowl less aesthetically pleasing.

Roaster for Chestnuts and the Like – Saburo 1929

On the eve of the Great Depression, this enterprising invention seems to have never quite taken off. That’s unfortunate, because enjoying fresh roasted chestnuts would definitely add to any Thanksgiving gathering.

Basically, this patent was targeted at improving roasters so that they could produce roasted chestnuts “in a highly efficient and economical manner.” Moreover, the invention was intended to make it easier to remove the nuts from the roaster without getting burned.

Pie Filling Device – Mooney 1986

In addition to the turkey, perhaps no traditional Thanksgiving dish is as anxiety-inducing to the cook as the pie. Fortunately, this inventor’s pie filling device is designed to make dessert easier on everyone.

The invention consists of a “pumping apparatus” that could be mounted on a shelf or “mobile cart” so that it could quickly and cleanly transfer pie filling into pie crust. Meant to be used in a small bakery, the pie crusts would already be in the oven, and the pump would add the filling via an outlet hose. It’s probably too complicated for use in home kitchens, but maybe some bakeries are actually using this apparatus.

Pumpkin Powder – Gere 1897

This much older invention does not sound particularly appetizing to modern ears. Of course, few people want to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, so perhaps pumpkin powder is a sensible compromise.

Instant pumpkin powder could be mixed with milk or water and immediately used as pie filling, thereby eliminating the need to cook the pumpkin before preparing it for use as pie filling. This was an improvement over existing powdered pumpkin products that had to be cooked after being rehydrated.

Perhaps it makes more sense to stick with canned pumpkin this year.

Ask Williams IP Law About Protecting Your Invention

Your invention may not revolutionize Thanksgiving feasts around the country, but it still may have the potential to make life easier and better for people around the world.

Contact patent attorney Jeff Williams to learn more about how you can patent your new product or process.

10 of the strangest ideas ever patented

Strange Patents

Many inventions have made significant improvements in the quality of life of people around the world. These innovations may make life easier or more efficient or are perhaps designed to protect us from harm. Then there are the ones that make you scratch your head. Well meaning inventors sometimes dream up innovations that they think will be a fantastic product that takes the world by storm. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but these strange items were nonetheless unique enough to merit an official U.S. patent.

1. Patent No. 883,611 – Bells on Rats

This 1908 patent was aimed at creating the proverbial “better mousetrap.” The rodent is lured to the trap using cheese, but instead of being killed the device snaps a bell onto its neck. Thus alarmed the rat runs home, scaring away the other rodents.

2. Patent No. 4,764,111 – Headgear Alarm

Wearing braces is a pain, and one inventor in the 1980s noticed that many teens avoid wearing their headgear. The inventor devised a beeping alarm that was fitted inside the mouth. The alarm would go off at preset times when headgear was supposed to be worn. Suitably embarrassed and annoyed, the teen would supposedly submit to wearing headgear.

3. Patent No. 3,216,423 – Centrifugal Birth

The 1960s were innovative, and these inventors were looking for a way to make giving birth easier. The mother-to-be is strapped to a spinning bed, which is meant to encourage a swifter birth. This may have been patented, but it’s doubtful it was ever used.

4. Patent No. 4,384,212 – Silent Screaming

Users hold this device over the mouth, and then are free to vent their frustration with screams and yells without disturbing others. This one should have been a hit in offices everywhere.

5. Patent No. 2,929,459 – Gas-Powered Pogo

Unlike the traditional pogo stick, this one came with a gas-powered engine. They were incredibly dangerous. How did anyone think this was a good idea?

6. Patent No. 35,600 – Plow with Gun

This 1862 invention was designed for the farmer who worked in treacherous fields. If under threat while plowing, the farmer simply fired the gun built into the body of the plow.

7. Patent No. 81,437 – Casket with Bell

Being buried alive was a real fear in 1868 when this patent was granted. These specially designed burial caskets included what was essentially a tunnel that led from the head of the interred individual up to the surface. If able to do so, the mistakenly buried person climbed a ladder to the surface. Otherwise, he could ring a bell to signal that a rescue was necessary.

8. Patent No. 7,062,320 – Hiccup Cure

When drinking water doesn’t cut it, you can strap this device to your face. It delivers electric shocks to pertinent nerves as you drink, providing an effective if not particularly comfortable cure.

9. Patent No. 5,356,330 – High Five

If you’ve ever felt the urge to high five yourself, this invention is for you. It’s essentially a plastic arm that you can mount to a wall. Now you won’t need anyone else around to celebrate.

10. Patent No. 5,727,565 – Kissing Shield

The germaphobes among us will appreciate this hand-held device that can be placed like a guard against your mouth before kissing someone. Nothing says romance like using a kissing shield.

Weird or not, if you need any patent services in the Houston or Dallas Fort Worth areas please contact the Law Offices of Jeff Williams.

6G Patents: China Continues Its Domination

If you enjoy always having the latest technology, then you’ll appreciate learning some data about recent patent filings. According to these data, 6G technology is on track to be rolled out in 2030.

That’s good news for many tech enthusiasts who are looking forward to sixth-generation communication networks, which are projected to be 10 times faster than fifth-generation technology.

Experts predicted that China’s development of 6G-related technologies would slow down after sanctions were leveled against Huawei Technologies in 2019 by the U.S. government. However, China seems to have simply switched gears from Huawei to universities and several state-run businesses, though Huawei continues to be a player in this arena.

A joint research project engaged in by Cyber Creative Institute and Nikkei Asia recently discovered that approximately 20,000 patent applications have been filed, each of which deals with 6G-related technologies. Subject matter in these patent applications covers artificial intelligence, base stations, quantum technology and communications. Observers expect such technology to make fully autonomous driving a reality as well as high-definition virtual reality. It also will improve Internet connections around the world, which will be especially helpful if you ever find yourself stranded in a remote desert.

According to the research project, China is leading the way in terms of the number of 6G technology patent applications filed. Typically, this is an indication of rapidly advancing technology, and with China filing the majority of the applications, this means that China will have the upper hand when it comes to setting industry standards.

The research shows that 40.3 percent of all 6G patent filings were completed by Chinese applicants. They were followed at 35.2 percent by the U.S., Japan at 9.9 percent, Europe at 8.9 percent and South Korea at 4.2 percent.

China’s 6G Patent Applications

The majority of China’s 6G patent applications are focused on mobile infrastructure technology. Once 6G is up and running, aerial coverage, which will be provided by devices like satellites, in addition to ground base stations will be necessary for providing broader radio bands. In fact, Huawei has been responsible for many of the recent patent applications, and they were known to control some 30 percent of the base stations in the world in 2020. Patent holders in China also include China Aerospace Science and Technology and State Grid Corporation of China, both of which are state-run enterprises.

Similarly, Huawei held the lion’s share of 5G patents, comprising an approximately 12 percent share. This appears to foreshadow an enormous presence in the 6G space as well.

Huawei has been defiant in the face of the sanctions placed on it by the U.S. government. They have announced that they are continuing to work on developing 6G technology. Moreover, the company published an advanced 5G white paper as recently as August 2021.

In related efforts, the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China launched a 6G satellite, the first of its kind, in November of 2020. While industry experts believed that the U.S. ban would make it harder for companies in China to continue to develop cutting-edge base stations or smartphones, but with government-led research, the country doesn’t seem to have missed a step.

In fact, China is pushing an initiative called “Made in China 2025” that places a priority on developing next-generation communications technology. Under the auspices of the initiative, financial assistance has been provided to countries that are building 5G networks in places across Africa and the Middle East.

The U.S. Next G Alliance

In the U.S., companies in the Internet and smartphone spaces are focusing on software and terminals. Intel and Qualcomm, for example, have added to their patent portfolios with patents that are directed toward chips that are used for IT equipment and smartphones.

The Next G Alliance initiative in the U.S. also is working toward the coming of the 6G era. Apple and Google are involved in the alliance along with numerous other concerns. Doing its part, the U.S. government is allowing the alliance complimentary access to test radio waves. Experts expect that 6G will allow the integration of communications with AI, augmented reality and virtual reality.

6G Developments in Japan

The Nippon Telegraph & Telephone company holds a number of patents in the area of mobile infrastructure networks and optical communications. This includes technology that is aimed at lessening data delays and congestion.

On the Horizon

A United Nations body called the International Telecommunication Union is working with various industry groups to advance 6G technology. They plan to begin setting 6G standards sometime in 2024. Given China’s many patents that are related to this technology, it is likely that they will have a strong voice in the rule-making process.

Although Washington continues to attempt to slow development of mobile communications products in China, a senior official of the International Telecommunication Union remarks that it likely will be impossible to exclude China from upcoming 6G technology discussions.

Contact Williams IP Law for More

Whether you are an inventor working in the 6G arena or are developing something entirely different, you need an experienced patent attorney to help you obtain the necessary patent protection. Schedule your consultation with Williams IP Law today.

5 Signs your Patent Attorney Is Terrible

Inventors come to patent attorneys with big dreams. However, not all patent attorneys share those dreams.

The inventor is certain that his creation will become an in-demand product. It might even revolutionize its industry.

The patent attorney may have a different view. Perhaps he sees that the market for the invention will be extremely limited or, based on his experience, he may believe that only a very limited scope of patent protection may be available for the invention.

A reputable patent attorney will lay it all out for the inventor. If the lawyer thinks that it will be incredibly difficult to obtain any patent protection or that the protection will be so narrow in scope as to not have value, he will provide his professional opinion to the inventor. The inventor then has the option to decide to proceed with a patent application or not.

Less-reputable patent lawyers may be less forthright with their professional opinions. After all, they need to keep the lights on, so they might tell every inventor they meet that their idea is fantastic and clearly patentable.

Unfortunately, inventors usually don’t have enough experience to tell if their attorney is being honest or not. Broadly speaking, a good patent attorney will describe in detail how demanding and difficult patent prosecution is. Even if a patent is obtained, it can be difficult to commercialize it.

Of course, it also is critical to have a patent attorney working with you throughout the process, but how can you tell if your lawyer is only lining his pockets or has your best interests in mind?

Here are a few signs to be on the lookout for.

1. They Overlook Your Invention’s Marketability

Did you know that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is part of the Department of Commerce? This suggests an expectation that patented technology will become a marketable product.

Accordingly, most experienced and reputable patent attorneys will ask an inventor questions about how they plan to manufacture and market their products. The question may be as simple as: “What do you want to get out of this?”

The inventor may answer that they want a patent, but it’s worth remembering that a patent and a business plan are two different things. A good intellectual property lawyer will encourage the inventor to look for manufacturing and marketing opportunities throughout patent prosecution.

By contrast, a practitioner who isn’t interested in the end result probably won’t mention any steps beyond getting a patent.

2. They Skip the Patent Search

Ultimately, it’s the inventor who decides whether or not a search for prior art is conducted before a patent application is filed. However, it’s the responsibility of a good lawyer to encourage the client to have a patent search performed.

Prior art is any patent or other publication that may disclose the same, or a similar, technology as is presented in the inventor’s disclosure. If the technology has already been patented, then there is no incentive for the inventor to proceed with trying to obtain a patent.

If a search is performed, the attorney is required to report any prior art they found to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent office examiner who reviews the application may use this prior art against the inventor’s disclosure, arguing that their invention is not new.

However, this is simply a part of the patent prosecution process. With the prior art references uncovered in the search in mind, the attorney can craft a patent application that does not infringe on the prior art. The examiner may argue otherwise, but the lawyer can make clarifying amendments and present arguments against the examiner’s opinions.

3. They Hide the Total Cost

Obtaining a patent is expensive. Not only are there attorney’s fees to pay for drafting the application but also there are official filing fees that are charged by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

However, there’s still more. The patent examiner will almost certainly object to the application, sometimes more than once. The attorney must respond to each objection, and this adds expenses to the cost of obtaining a patent. Next, an issue fee must be paid, and an issued patent is subject to the payment of maintenance fees about every four years.

A non-provisional patent application may cost anywhere between $20,000 to $30,000, and the price may vary depending upon the length and complexity of the invention disclosure.

4. They Don’t Talk About How Broad the Patent’s Coverage May Be

The claims of the patent are the specific embodiment that is protected. Will the inventor be able to get claims that are broad enough to offer any real coverage? Or, will the protection be so narrow as to be worthless? A good attorney will be up front about how broad or narrow the available protection might be.

5. They Avoid Provisional Patent Applications

Provisional patent applications are not examined, and they never issue as patents. These applications are pending for one year. In this time, the inventor can make refinements to their invention and look for manufacturing and marketing opportunities. If things go well and look promising, then it’s time to file a non-provisional patent application that will be examined and may issue as a patent. Trustworthy patent attorneys frequently recommend starting with a provisional patent application as a sensible stepping stone to obtaining a patent.

Contact Williams IP Law

If you have an invention that you believe in, then you need to work with an intellectual property attorney who you can trust. Avoid lawyers who only seem to tell you what you want to hear. Instead, go with an attorney who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, even if it means that he may not get to draft a patent application for you. That is the practitioner who genuinely has your best interests in mind.

Dozens of inventors have put their trust in Jeff Williams to help them pursue patent protection. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your invention today.

8 Patents That Have Killed Their Inventors

Some inventions are fated to never get off the ground. The inventors have a great idea, but they discover that there isn’t a market for the technology or that it’s simply too cumbersome to implement.

Other inventors, and the inventions they create, become famous. Their names may be known all over the world, and some of them appear in history books. Some inventions even make their creators wealthy.

Despite this success, inventors aren’t always protected from disaster. In fact, many inventors throughout the centuries have actually been killed by the things they created.

Here is a look at a few of them.

Horace Lawson Hunley

Working for the Confederate States of America during the U.S. Civil War, Hunley was a marine engineer whose invention was a hand-powered submarine. Hunley’s main objective was to subvert the Union blockade of southern ports, and his early efforts looked like they would be successful. Hunley was in command of the H.L. Hunley during a routine exercise in 1863 during which the vessel sank, killing all eight men on board. Not to be deterred, the Confederate States of America raised the vessel in 1864 and used it to sink the enemy vessel, USS Housatonic.

Karel Soucek

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1947, Soucek was a professional stuntman who called Canada home. In 1984, he successfully went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. His daredevil stunt made him famous and earned him a great deal of money. In fact, Soucek determined that he would build a museum in Ontario at Niagara Falls in which his stunt-related equipment would be displayed. To raise money for the venture, Soucek convinced a large company to pay for him to perform a barrel drop from the Houston Astrodome into a water tank. The fall would total 180 feet. Unfortunately, the barrel drop was ill-fated. A premature release sent the tank spinning to such a degree that it missed the water tank, hitting the rim instead. Soucek died shortly after being cut out of the barrel.

Marie Curie

Perhaps best known as Madame Curie, the famous physicist discovered Polonium and Radium. She was twice awarded the Nobel Prize, but her experiments had a high price. After being exposed for years to radioactive materials without proper safety precautions, Madame Curie died in 1934 at the age of 66. Her cause of death is thought to have been bone marrow failure. Nonetheless, the medical research centers that she founded in Warsaw and Paris are still in existence today and continue to make scientific breakthroughs.

Francis Edgar Stanley

Francis, or F.E., Stanley and his twin brother Freeland Oscar, or F.O., Stanley were American businessmen who founded the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. Their greatest invention was the Stanley Steamer, a steam-operated automobile. The company was in business from 1902 until 1924 when it was sold and dissolved. Tragically, F.E. Stanley was killed when he accidentally crashed his car into a roadside woodpile while trying to avoid colliding with farm wagons that were traveling abreast of each other.

Max Valier

An Austrian pioneer in the field of rocketry, Valier was among the founders of the German Spaceflight Society that was one of the earliest organizations to bring together many of the innovators who would one day make space flight possible. In the 1920s, the society was working on building liquid-fuelled rockets, and by 1930, Valier was able to test drive a rocket car that was powered with liquid propulsion. Unfortunately, he was killed shortly afterward in an explosion of an alcohol-fuelled rocket in Berlin.

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier

An 18th century Frenchman who was a noted instructor of physics and chemistry, de Rozier also was an aviation pioneer. Along with a colleague, he was part of the inaugural manned free balloon flight. The flight was completed in a Montgolfier balloon in 1783. It’s impossible to say what else de Rozier might have invented had he lived. He was killed in a subsequent balloon flight, in which he attempted to fly across the English Channel, in 1785 at the age of 31.

Henry Smolinski

Smolinkski was the victim of an untimely death in 1973 as he piloted an aircraft he made himself by attaching the wings of a Cessna 337 to a Ford Pinto. His craft was called the AVE Mizar, and it crashed on its first test flight with Smolinski at the controls. Theoretically, the Pinto with wings was capable of flying at speeds of 130 MPH and at about 12,000 feet above the ground’s surface. Smolinski had modified the dashboard with instruments like an altimeter and radio navigational equipment, all to no avail.

William Bullock

Bullock is considered a pioneer in the printing industry thanks to the improvements he made to the rotary printing press that was an invention of Richard March Hoe. Boasting far greater efficiency and speed, Bullock’s improvements helped publications like Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly become famous across the country. Bullock’s web rotary press made it possible to use continuous rolls of paper that were automatically fed through the press’s rollers, making hand feeding obsolete. Sadly, Bullock was working on one of his own presses in 1867 when his leg was crushed by the machine. After developing gangrene, doctors operated to amputate the limb, but Bullock died on the operating table.

Where Will Your Inventions Take You?

Most inventors are fortunate enough not to be killed by their own innovations. In fact, some of them even manage to obtain patent protection and actually earn a profit based on their work. If you have a great idea that you want to protect, then contact Williams IP Law today.

Do Patents create Monopolies or Innovation?

Inventors and entrepreneurs usually think of their patents as being among their most important business assets. However, others think that having a patent on new technology really only creates a monopoly.

To a certain extent, both of these viewpoints are valid. After all, patents fall under federal statutes and are a regulatory right. Because it can be bought and sold, a patent seems a great deal like property. Plus, thanks to the claims contained within the patent, it is possible for the owner to prevent others from using, selling, distributing and manufacturing their invention.

Although patents may seem like property, they are not necessarily real property. Real property is easy to identify, as in the case of real estate lots. They have specific and well-defined boundaries. If the owners of two adjoining plots have a disagreement about where the boundary between their land lies, this can be settled with surveyors and land deeds.

On the other hand, it is not always so easy to determine the boundaries of a patent. A patent is defined by its claims, which can sometimes seem ambiguous. Usually, high degrees of legal and technical expertise are required to accurately discern the technology that is encompassed by the claims. Still, even experts may not agree about exactly what the patent covers. This is what can lead to patent litigation, which is a costly and time-consuming pursuit without any certain outcomes.

It seems like taking a patent owner to court would be an effective means of determining exactly what a patent covers. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Consider that when judges make a decision about what the claims of a patent cover, their decisions are reversed approximately 40-percent of the time. Courts also may contradict one another, making it clear that determining what a patent covers is never easy.

Do Patents Create Monopolies?

Both sides of this argument have vehement supporters, but upon mature consideration, it becomes clear that patents don’t necessarily create monopolies. This is partially true because most patents end up being worthless. Perhaps they are directed toward technology that no one really needs or are so narrow in scope that competitors can easily design around the claims.

A patent can be viewed as a sort of mini-monopoly in that the patent owner is granted the power to prevent others from using their protected technology without a license or other permission. However, it is always possible for others to negotiate with the patent owner to make use of the technology. If no agreement is reached, then the competitor may try to design around the patent or wait a few years until the patent expires, at which time new innovations may look even more attractive.

What About Pharmaceutical Patents?

All industries are different, and the pharmaceutical industry is one that is frequently cited as having monopolies over drugs that could save or change lives. Proponents of the patents-as-monopolies argument point out that other developed nations have alternative systems in place that involve negotiated prices or price controls. In these other countries, the government chooses the extent to which a pharmaceutical company can exploit its monopoly.

Accordingly, people who need prescription medications in the U.S. pay about twice as much for drugs as do the citizens of other developed nations.

Detractors point out that having a patent allows a drug company to dictate the cost of potentially life-saving medications.

It is true that a patent makes it possible for a drug company to decide how much a new medication costs, and no one is arguing that the system is perfect. Still, patents expire, at which time these medications can be marketed as far less costly generic versions.

The Myth of the Patent Monopoly

The reality is that turning a patent into cold, hard cash frequently is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Few inventors will ever be greeted by the sight of a money truck or a huge check in their mailbox. Just because a patent is issued does not mean that a market exists for the covered product.

Consider that the definition of monopoly according to Merriam-Webster includes terms such as: “exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action” and “a commodity controlled by one party.” Other dictionary definitions speak to the ability of the monopoly holder to enable the “manipulation of prices.”

Accordingly, it is rare for any inventor or even company to hold a true monopoly simply because they hold a patent. Where there is no market, no monopoly can exist.

The fact is that most patents are never commercialized. Many that are commercialized end up losing money because not enough interested customers are found. Accordingly, patents rarely grant true monopolies.

The one-time chief judge for the United States Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit once wrote: “Nowhere in any statute is a patent described as a monopoly. The patent right is but the right to exclude others, the very definition of ‘property.’”

Despite the rumors that occasionally may circulate, it is virtually impossible for any patent to completely lock up a particular market space. This is because truly foundational technologies that are of the utmost importance to that market are rare. Most patents instead are directed to incremental improvements or advances, which means that patent rights can be quite fragile.

Work with a Qualified Intellectual Property Attorney

At Williams IP Law, we believe in the fundamental purpose and value of the American system of patents. Accordingly, we strive to obtain meaningful, comprehensive protection in every patent application that we write. If you would like to pursue a patent that protects your innovations, schedule a consultation by calling (817) 225-6561 or requesting your FREE consultation with Jeff.

The Invention Process for Entrepreneurs

Do you have an invention?

When you have an idea for a new invention, the excitement you feel can be hard to contain. In the space of a few moments, you see yourself bringing a desirable new product to market and earning millions of dollars in the process.

Unfortunately, the invention process is complicated. Getting your new product from an idea to an actual item on store shelves requires a great deal of time and effort. It’s also essential that you protect your innovation with a patent application so that you can prevent others from taking advantage of your creativity.

Although the invention process looks a little different each time, there are still certain steps that you can expect to take.

Develop and Document Your Idea

You need much more than a vague concept to get started. Accordingly, you may have to spend some time developing your idea.

Keep in mind that most inventions are created in order to solve a problem. As you work to develop your idea, maintain your focus on the problem that you are trying to solve. You may want to keep notes relating to your research, experiments and development efforts.

Prior to 2013, the United States had a “first to invent” patenting system. In the event that two inventors submitted highly similar patent applications, the United States Patent and Trademark Office would award any resulting patent to the applicant who could prove that they had the idea and developed it first, regardless of whether or not they were the first to file a patent application.

In March 2013, U.S. patent law changed, and the system became a “first to file” patent system. This means that keeping dated, witnessed documentation of your development process has become less critical. Nonetheless, you may want to keep plenty of notes to document your process in case another party ever disputes your claim to the invention.

Complete a Patent Search

It is possible for any inventor to conduct a patent search in the online records of the USPTO. The online system enables inventors to look for any existing patents that may be similar to their new invention. For an invention to be patentable, it must be unique and non-obvious. If you discover prior art in your patent search that is duplicative of your invention, then you may need to re-focus your efforts.

Do Some Market Research

Did you know that as many as 95 percent of all patents don’t end up being profitable for the inventor? Usually, this is because the invented item just isn’t something that people need or want. Consequently, it may be sensible to do some market research. Is your invention one that people will actually buy?

Obtaining a patent, developing a product and marketing it are all time-consuming and expensive processes. It makes sense to ensure that there is a good possibility that you can make money from your idea down the road before investing too much time and money.

Take a look at other similar products that are already on the market. How much are they selling for? Will it be possible to manufacture and distribute your product at an affordable cost that makes your retail price reasonable?

Market research can be indispensable to determining whether or not you continue with the next steps of the invention process.

Build a Prototype

This is the step in which your idea becomes tangible. You may build the prototype yourself or hire a manufacturing company to do it for you.

Usually, a prototype begins with drawings. Once again, this is something you can do yourself or hire out. Next, you may create a mockup out of any material that can make a passable 3-D model of your idea. It’s then possible to create a working model.

The prototype is a critical step because it may reveal flaws or missing components in your idea. In fact, you may find yourself going back to the drawing board. That’s perfectly all right. Most inventions are the product of a lot of trial and error.

File a Patent Application

When you, at last, have a working prototype of your invention, you probably have most of the kinks figured out. This means that it’s a good time to think about protecting your idea. Typically, this means filing a patent application.

You may file an application for a utility patent, which covers machines or processes, or a design patent, which covers ornamental designs.

Some inventors elect to write and file the patent application by themselves. However, this rarely is advisable. The application will be reviewed by a lawyer at the USPTO who is likely to issue arguments against the patentability of the invention. Having a qualified intellectual property attorney draft and file your patent application usually makes the process go a little more smoothly. The Examiner at the USPTO still may initially deny a patent, but your attorney will be prepared to file legal arguments that could change the Examiner’s mind.

Work on Fundraising, Manufacturing and Marketing

Now that your invention is “patent pending,” you are ready to move on to disclosing your invention to people and entities that might be able to help you with financing, manufacturing and marketing. This may involve writing up a business plan and setting up your own company. Alternatively, some inventors choose to license their patent rights to a company that will handle things like manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

If you do plan to enter into any legal agreements or licenses with another party, then it’s wise to consult with a patent attorney to ensure that any documents that you consider signing fully protect your interests.

Talk to Williams IP Law

Do you have a great idea that you would like to turn into a marketable product? If so, then give Williams IP Law a call. We are experienced at providing guidance to inventors regardless of where they are in the invention process. Whether you need help with drafting and filing a patent application or deciding if a proposed licensing agreement really is a good deal, Williams IP Law has the knowledge needed to advise you.

Trade Secrets and IP: What you should know

Intellectual property may be protected in a variety of ways. New inventions may be covered by a patent while your company’s name and logo may be protected with a trademark registration. If your company publishes brochures, then these are covered with a copyright.

However, what if your company has something that they would like to protect, but keep secret? Several famous examples of “trade secrets” exist. These include Kentucky Fried Chicken’s 11 herbs and spices, the secret formula for making Coca-Cola and the search algorithm that Google uses.

Why didn’t these companies decide to patent or otherwise protect their IP via the various mechanisms that are available under U.S. law?

It’s because they wanted to keep their “secret ingredient” a secret. When you file a patent application, for example, it is essential that you disclose everything about the invention so that the United States Patent and Trademark Office can establish that it is non-obvious, novel and eligible for patent protection.

This means that any proprietary information that goes into your invention will eventually become public knowledge. When your patent expires, your technology becomes available for others to use.

However, when you protect something as a trade secret, then you have the potential to keep it a secret in perpetuity.

What Can You Protect with a Trade Secret?

Trade secrets can protect an array of things, from an ingenious idea that gives your firm a competitive edge to the marketing plans for your newest product. Similarly, customer lists can be protected as trade secrets as well as information regarding prices and costs.

Some companies even protect negative know-how as a trade secret. This basically refers to anything that they have learned to not do through extensive research and development. Sometimes, this information is just as valuable as the ingredients that successfully make up your secret.

Essentially, a trade secret can be almost any information that is valuable to your company and generally isn’t known to the rest of the world, especially your competition.

What Rights Does a Trade Secret Grant?

If a company chooses to keep some information as a trade secret, then they have the right to prevent certain people from using or benefiting from that trade secret.

Some of these people are automatically bound by a strict duty of confidentiality. This applies to any employees who work with or are knowledgeable about the trade secret.

Trade secrets also give you legal protections in the event that your proprietary information is illegally obtained via bribery or theft. A company with a trade secret further can prevent people who accidentally discover the secret information from profiting from it as well as those who are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before the confidential information is shared with them.

However, a trade secret does not grant a company any rights if another party independently discovers the trade secret. As an example, there is no law that prevents someone from reverse engineering a product that is only protected as a trade secret. This means that theoretically someone could analyze the formula used to make Coca-Cola, discover its precise ingredients and then start making and selling their own version of Coca-Cola. Because Coca-Cola’s formula is only protected as a trade secret, they would have a lot of difficulty stopping the inventor from profiting from his knowledge.

How Does a Company Protect a Trade Secret?

Businesses have to do more than just call a certain piece of information a trade secret. Instead, it is necessary to take affirmative actions that will protect this information and keep it confidential. Many companies will take extreme measures to keep their information strictly private.

This is the case with the makers of Coca-Cola, as the formula is locked in a bank vault that is only able to be opened after a resolution is passed by the board of directors. Only two company employees are ever allowed to know the formula at the same time. These employees are forbidden from flying on the same airplane, and their identities are never made known to the public.

Most companies do not have to go to such extreme lengths to protect their trade secrets. A few reasonable precautions generally are all that is required.

For instance, it is wise to mark any documents with “Confidential” if they contain any trade secret information. All trade secret materials probably should be locked away in a safe or other secure area after hours. Another sensible measure is to beef up any computer security protocols to ensure that hackers and other bad actors can’t gain access to sensitive information.

If you do have trade secrets, then you’ll probably want to limit how many people actually have access to that information. Ensure that your employees are bound by a duty of confidentiality, preferably with a written document, and do the same with anyone who is not an employee but who must be told about the trade secret for any reason. A proper non-disclosure agreement is a simple document that can help to protect proprietary information under just about any circumstances.

Talk to a Lawyer About Protecting Trade Secrets

If you have proprietary information that you believe would be best protected by keeping it as a trade secret, then contact the Law Offices of Jeff Williams. Mr. Williams is an experienced intellectual property attorney who can help you to understand your rights and devise a strategy for protecting proprietary information.