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Should I Publish Or Patent? 266

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the get-a-lawyer dept.
BorgeStrand writes 'Patenting is an expensive process, even coming up with some sort of proof that your idea is unique (and thereby try to attract financing) may be prohibitive for the lone inventor. So what do you folks out there do when you come up with a good idea but don't have the means to patent it or market it to someone who will pay for the patenting process? And how much sense does it really make for the lone inventor to patent something? Would it make more sense to publish the whole idea, and make it (and my inventive brainpower) up for grabs? If my ideas are indeed valuable, what is the best way to gain anything from them without investing too much financially? What is your experience?'
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Should I Publish Or Patent?

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  • come on (Score:5, Funny)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:32AM (#29756287) Homepage
    This is slashdot, all patents are evil, and the most profitable thing for you to do would be to to let everyone know the details, and let them all build whatever it is you invented. That way, it gets worked on by different people in an open source way and you get a better ultimate product. And somehow you profit from that. I'm still trying to figure out that last part, but if a million slashdotters say something it can't be wrong.
    • Re:come on (Score:5, Funny)

      by oldspewey (1303305) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:36AM (#29756351)

      I'm still trying to figure out that last part,

      I believe the standard notation for this is a single line containing three question marks.

      • by Tsar (536185)

        This is slashdot, all patents are evil, and the most profitable thing for you to do would be to to let everyone know the details, and let them all build whatever it is you invented. That way, it gets worked on by different people in an open source way and you get a better ultimate product. And somehow you profit from that. I'm still trying to figure out that last part, but if a million slashdotters say something it can't be wrong.

        I believe the standard notation for this is a single line containing three question marks.

        Brilliant. Thank you. You've just made my morning.

      • publish or perish (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Psychofreak (17440)

        In some industries its publish or perish.

        For one case there was a device invented by a woman I know to aid in moving patients about in a hospital bed. It improves patient safety and staff safety. She was told that because she patented it, the companies would wait out her patent even though she was not seeking significant money for the idea. Profit for her would have been having a safer job.

        Publishing would have been better, establishing prior art is sometimes more important since it encourages competitio

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nomadic (141991)
      In a less sarcastic, slightly more useful vein, patenting something is expensive but not prohibitively so. A few thousand dollars, unless you get unlucky and the patent office starts getting all resistant. Though, because of the state of the legal profession today you might be able to find a patent lawyer cheap.
      • Re:come on (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:44AM (#29757331) Journal

        Do this - publish your idea in the most obscure way possible. Don't put it on the web. Instead, make sure some library like the one Sarah Palin likes to ban books from in Wasilla, Alaska. I kid you not - this is advice I've had from multiple patent attorneys. It protects your idea, and is nearly free, without much chance of tipping off your competitors.

        • Do this - publish your idea in the most obscure way possible. ... I kid you not - this is advice I've had from multiple patent attorneys. It protects your idea, and is nearly free, without much chance of tipping off your competitors.

          How does this protect your idea? IANAL, but it's my understanding that a public disclosure immediately invalidates your non-US patent rights, and starts a one-year clock ticking on the filing period for a US patent. The obscurity of your disclosure may prevent others from learning of your idea, but not disclosing it at all will have the same effect; neither method will prevent others from utilizing the idea, should they learn of it.

          • I think the idea is that you can publish really fast. If you're only interested in the US market then you can publish in a really obscure manner, file for patents as fast as possible and then if your patent is accepted you just never tell anyone about your obscure publishing and file for patents abroad.
            If your patent is rejected or competitors get there first but you've already published you can pull out your obscure published document to invalidate their patent and kill their advantage.

            US market: it's all

          • by Bobb9000 (796960)
            Well, the major benefit I can think of is that, if no competitor independently comes up with the idea within a year of that publication, then no one can patent your idea out from underneath you. If you publish in a more broadcast way, then a crafty and moral-free competitor might be able to patent it, and if they're large enough, might be able to out-lawyer a small inventor's attempt to prove that they didn't invent it themselves.

            That's a pretty limited kind of protection, though, and it's not likely to r
          • Do this - publish your idea in the most obscure way possible. ... I kid you not - this is advice I've had from multiple patent attorneys. It protects your idea, and is nearly free, without much chance of tipping off your competitors.

            How does this protect your idea? IANAL, but it's my understanding that a public disclosure immediately invalidates your non-US patent rights, and starts a one-year clock ticking on the filing period for a US patent. The obscurity of your disclosure may prevent others from learning of your idea, but not disclosing it at all will have the same effect; neither method will prevent others from utilizing the idea, should they learn of it.

            It helps protect your idea because if it's published, you have a lesser chance of becoming the next Robert Jacobsen [wikipedia.org], who wrote an open-source java software package that a sleazy company used to build their product upon, patent, and then sue Jacobsen for infringing on their patent. So far they've won tens of thousands of dollars from him, as well as the tens of thousands he's spent defending himself, although he seems to be winning the latest round of lawsuits.

      • In early days you were required to have a patent lawyer in order to perform a thorough search of the archives. They gave you the template and you wrote in the substance. You no longer need this http://www.google.com/patents/ [google.com] has all the patents listed in a very searchable format. you can do the search your self find all references and using legal zoom file the patent yourself. You don't even have to mail it there are patent offices all over the place. In my experience (or should I say research) you have a

    • It's a simple 3 step process:

      1. Publish details of brilliant invention.
      2. ???
      3. Profit.

      On a more serious note, I don't support patents at all and suggest that, if you do decide to patent it, you at least attach some sort of irrevocable, royalty free licence to it, which would at least let you keep it around for defensive purposes in case you get sued. Just don't become a patent troll.

      Also, perhaps instead of simply publishing it publicly for everyone immediately, you could find a company involved in a simil

    • I see no hint as to what BorgeStrand wants to patent. Is it some PHYSICAL ITEM OR METHOD?? Some NEW GADGET? If not, you need to look at COPYRIGHT LAW. "Patent or publish". It sounds to me like you, like most of corporate America, haven't a clue as to what a patent is SUPPOSED to be.

      BorgeStrand needs to get off our lawns, at least until he's able to come back and post a meaningful question. "Patent or publish?" Just plain stupid.

  • Tell Me (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:33AM (#29756309)

    Simply tell me what your patentable idea is and I'll take care of everything for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mh1997 (1065630)

      Simply tell me what your patentable idea is and I'll take care of everything for you.

      Also, a working prototype would be helpful.

    • Small entity? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:28AM (#29757061) Journal
      Presumably, you would be patenting as a small entity, for which the US PTO cuts most fees by 50%.

      You also don't necessarily need an expensive attorney to file a US patent application - you can do it yourself, provided you conform to certain formal requirements. For an application which goes smoothly through the process, the small entity fees are less than $2000 http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee2009september15.htm [uspto.gov]. If there are many office actions, this total could easily double or triple, however, so preparing the application carefully is essential. I'd recommend you peruse the documents at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/basics/index.html [uspto.gov], and get a copy of 37CFR part 1 (patent rules) and the MPEP http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/index.jsp [uspto.gov].

      FWIW, I've had a couple of patents which issued without any intervening office actions, but they were the exceptions. Most involved a few office actions, and a couple involved many office actions. Every office action involves a fee, even if the action was due to the PTO losing papers which they had officially acknowledged receiving (that case is still ongoing).

      Also, publishing in some journal or on the web does not necessarily prevent someone else from filing a patent application on much the same thing. The US PTO does not and cannot search ALL possible publications when looking for prior art, and if a patent is wrongly issued, it would be up to you to challenge it in court (at much higher expense than actually getting a patent)). The PTO does search all US patents and US patent applications, however. So filing a patent application, and then abandoning it at the first office action, is a good and relatively cheap way of publishing your idea in a way that prevents everyone else from getting a patent on it. They'd have to make significant changes beyond anything clearly contemplated in your application to get their application through the PTO.
      • And that attitude is highly anti-innovative and characterizes one of the main problems with the US patent system.

        If you abandon it at the first challenge, leaving it for the USPTO to automatically deny other claims along that line for you, then that which you thought patentable in the first place should then become public domain, excluded from collecting actions on your part, and those who might improve upon the idea, patenting the improvements but not your basic idea which would have to be named in their a

        • I don't know where to begin with this comprehensive demonstration of ignorance. It would appear that you are arguing from a severe misapprehension of what patents are and the process of getting them.

          Perhaps the best start would be for you to learn about patents. The PTO links in my earlier post would be one starting point...
          • Let me state it this way: I know enough about patents to be able to see that this countries ability to innovate, improving products at the rate we were doing it 60 years ago, is now severely curtailed. Between patent trolls, and the current version of copyright, it is an insult to anyone who thinks he has a better idea.

            Patents were originally set with a lifetime of 7 years, with the option of a one time 7 year renewal if the proper forms and fees were submitted. That short time of exclusivity encouraged

        • by Binty (1411197)
          That is exactly what filing a patent and then abandoning it would do. The original applicant wouldn't have a patent, so nobody would owe the original applicant anything for the use of the idea. But it would prevent future applicants from patenting the original applicant's idea. That means no one has a patent and everyone can use the idea.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Sgt. B (926642)

        How much time would your abandoned patent application be viable?

        I have had several ideas I've wanted to patent but thought the entire process to be against the individual. I hear a lot of stories of people who go through the process to just have it killed by a corporation contesting the patent simply to stall it in court.

        A small entity like myself can not afford to battle it out in court. I'd be out of money and no longer able to move the idea forward. It is really depressing when you look up the stories o

        • I hear a lot of stories of people who go through the process to just have it killed by a corporation contesting the patent simply to stall it in court.

          That's the system in the EPO and many other jurisdictions. An objection or challenge can be filed in a period after the patent application is published, and this delays or prevents its issue. The matter must be resolved, normally by written arguments from both parties, and the EPO will deliver a reasoned judgement based on the merits of the arguments. There can be appeals and so forth, sometimes with oral arguments before a tribunal (I have participated in one such oral proceeding in Munchen). The cost for

  • by Xiph (723935) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:35AM (#29756345)

    If you patent, it'll be expensive.
    If you don't patent, but end up making it, someone else will patent it and sue you, that will be more expensive.
    However, if it'll never really be marketable, publish, someone might think oooo nifty, and hire you because it sounds great.

    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:57AM (#29756609) Homepage

      If you patent, it'll be expensive. If you don't patent, but end up making it, someone else will patent it and sue you, that will be more expensive.

      No to the second part-- if you publish before they file the patent, their patent filing won't help them, the patent is invalidated by prior art (=your publication).

      In fact, if you keep good enough notes (signed and witnessed) to show your date of invention, and to show that you were diligent in working to bring the invention to workability (i.e., that you didn't just have the idea and abandon it), then they can't succeed in suing you, either, because you can prove you invented it first.

      (However, if you had the idea, and didn't diligently work on reducing it to practive, you're out of luck. No cookies from the patent office to ideas that are abandoned and not reduced to practice.)

      Disclaimer: IANAL

      • by Jurily (900488)

        No to the second part-- if you publish before they file the patent, their patent filing won't help them, the patent is invalidated by prior art (=your publication).

        Like that's going to stop the USPTO clerks. Fighting a patent is even more expensive than getting one, anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NoTheory (580275)
        Oh, naïveté.

        Nothing will stop them from filing their patent unless you are aware of their filing, and object.

        Then, if you were to do something w/ your idea, they may very well sue you, regardless of their patent's invalidity, making the gamble that you'd rather settle than deal with the legal proceedings required to invalidate their patent.

        These guys aren't doing it cause they're smart. They're doing it because they think there's easy money to be made, and it's a pain in the ass to defend y
      • by N Monkey (313423) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:12AM (#29756807)

        IANAPL but...

        If you patent, it'll be expensive.
        If you don't patent, but end up making it, someone else will patent it and sue you, that will be more expensive.

        No to the second part-- if you publish before they file the patent, their patent filing won't help them, the patent is invalidated by prior art (=your publication).

        That is the theory and, in some countries, patent examiners will look through reputable journals etc when looking for prior art but, in my experience, US examiners only look in existing US patents (and patent applications). Once a patent is granted it sounds like it is very difficult - in the US at least - to get it overturned.

        The question is also where do you publish? If you can't get it into a journal, AFAIU one possible option might be just to file it as a patent and then abandon it before the really expensive charges occur. It should then, (again AFAIU), end up in the public domain.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537)
        Prior art doesn't necessarily stop them from patenting, and if they get the patent it won't necessarily stop them from suing. Sure, unless there's a travesty of justice (not out of the question) you'll win the lawsuit, but that won't necessarily keep it from being expensive.
    • by tburkhol (121842) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:24AM (#29757011)

      If you patent, it'll be expensive.

      In the US, you can apply for a provisional patent [uspto.gov] for $110. This is a simplified, essentially abstract patent application you can use to hold your place in the patent line while you go off and find someone to commercialize/help you commercialize your idea.

      You've still got a year after publication to make a provisional filing, but you also get a year after the provisional filing before the full application.

    • by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      Actually, if you keep a good notebook of your work that's dated and signed by yourself, and for extra precauction a "reader's signature" of a second, unrelated party, it doesn't matter if your publish your work, you can still prove that you have precedent and can challenge any patents lawsuits filed at a later time and take over the patent for yourself.

      No need to file or publish as long as you keep good notes. Of course, if you thought it was a million dollar idea, why are you not patenting it? Also, you
    • by geekoid (135745)

      well, if you are to market, they will ahve a hard time with a paten case against you.

      The real risk is some company making millions of them and charging below your costs for the product.

  • You can do both (Score:5, Informative)

    by Steve1952 (651150) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:39AM (#29756407)
    If you live in the US, you can do both. First send in a provisional patent to the USPTO using their electronic filing system (costs $110), then publish your idea. You have a year to decide to patent the idea or not, and if you decide not to, all you are out is $110.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490)

      I had an IP lawyer tell me that the provisional patent is completely pointless. You don't have to file a provisional patent to get this protection. You can publish, then patent up to a year later and your idea is still protected.

      • Re:You can do both (Score:5, Informative)

        by N Monkey (313423) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:20AM (#29756933)

        I had an IP lawyer tell me that the provisional patent is completely pointless. You don't have to file a provisional patent to get this protection. You can publish, then patent up to a year later and your idea is still protected.

        ...but only in the US. If you do as suggested above you will have screwed up your protection for the rest of the world (or at least the majority of it :-) ). Get your patent filed first, to get a "priority date" and you then have, something like, a year to file in other countries. In the mean time you can publish if you want.

    • by rvw (755107)

      In the Netherlands you can deposit the design at a local tax office. Yes you read that correct. They will file it for you, and it can be used as official proof in a court case. It costs about $50. This is not a patent, but it could protect you against one. Possibly other countries offer a similar service.

  • by Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:43AM (#29756449)

    I believe the only unavoidable cost of getting a patent is the filing fee (and the issuing fee, if it's accepted), but that only amounts to a few hundred dollars. There are maintenance fees every few years, and while these are a bit more expensive, it's not an insurmountable expense. All the prior work research and everything can be done by an individual, assuming they're determined and resourceful, although depending on the nature of the patent that could get real tricky.

    What you should really ask is, "What's the purpose of getting this patent?" Having a patent doesn't automatically protect you from people stealing the idea, or ensure that you'll be duly compensated if someone decides to use it. The most onerous part of the patenting and licensing process comes after you get the patent - patent battles can go on for years or decades, and there's no guarantee that you'll win any compensation after almost unavoidably spending a ton of money to fight the good fight, often against people with far more resources than yourself.

    If you think you can really do something with your invention and are willing to take on the entirely separate and probably even more difficult task of marketing the invention to a company and getting them to distribute it or license it, then a patent is probably something to seriously consider. If you want to patent it because it's your idea and you're proud of it, but you don't necessarily see yourself pursuing it in a commercial sense, then in my opinion you're probably better off just publishing it and taking satisfaction in the fact that you're contributing to the knowledge base.

    • I believe the only unavoidable cost of getting a patent is the filing fee (and the issuing fee, if it's accepted), but that only amounts to a few hundred dollars. There are maintenance fees every few years, and while these are a bit more expensive, it's not an insurmountable expense. All the prior work research and everything can be done by an individual, assuming they're determined and resourceful, although depending on the nature of the patent that could get real tricky.

      This is true, and I like to see people doing things on their own as much as possible. But the unfortunate truth in this case is that writing a good patent is actually quite hard, and I'd hate to see the OP put a great deal of work into an invention, another great deal of work into writing the patent, and a bit more money into filing fees only to have nothing to show for it but an easily circumventable patent and $0.00 in royalty payments because of it. If you really think your invention might be valuable, h

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:44AM (#29756465)
    The sum of the standard responses will be:
    1) Develop the thing on your own. If you can't prototype it you don't have anything of interest to the folks you want to sell to.
    2) Get a provisional patent - they're cheap and should protect you while trying to pimp your prototype.
    3) There is NO market for pure ideas - if that's all you've got, nobody cares enough to pay you for that. Bringing something to market is far-far harder than coming up with an idea.

    Being a person whose has ideas and these same questions for a long time, I can say I agree with all the above.

    If it's possible for slashdot to agree on anything, it's this. Oh, and you'll get the "patents are evil" stuff too, but that doesn't actually answer your question.
    • Some of the best advice on this was "Value = Risk Reduction". The closer to a marketable product you are, the more valuable your idea is. If you've done the basic research, prototypes, product design, market research, basic manufacturing and liability research, you have a very valuable piece of property to sell for a nice bit of coin. If all you have is "I had this cool idea while I was smokin' a bowl", then all you can maybe expect is a cup of coffee while telling the story. Like others have said, patent i

  • I have given this thought in the past and figured that since the USPTO does a lot of legwork to check out patents before granting them, why not let them do the research and then redo the patent filing based upon the rejection? Of course, the speed at which these are processed and public availability of filings would most likely make this simplistic scenario unrealistic. It was a thought, none-the-less.

    • by McFly777 (23881)

      I have given this thought in the past and figured that since the USPTO does a lot of legwork to check out patents before granting them, why not let them do the research and then redo the patent filing based upon the rejection?

      Actually, for the patent which I recieved, this is exactly what the high-priced patent attorney did. He even admitted that to be the most efficient way to handle the process.

      It WAS initially rejected as being too close to a German patent; the attorney then made a few adjustments of the wording in the first claim based on the examiners comments and the German patent, such that it more clearly defined the novel differences, and boom whe patent was granted.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:49AM (#29756519) Homepage
    The sad fact is that nine out of ten patents don't make any money. I don't mean, "don't make enough money to pay back the expenses of patenting"-- I mean, don't make any money.

    Don't expect that you'll make money if you patent an idea-- the patent is only the first step in the process of commercializing the invention, and unless you are active and get your invention out in the world, it won't happen-- it's not true that there are people sitting there and reading every patent as it comes out, saying "oh, there's one I can invest in! I'll pay that guy buckets of money!" You have to do the work (and only ten percent of that work is technical. The majority is networking, social, legal, business, economic, and sales related.)

    So: are you ready to do the entrepreneur thing? Long days of working on selling your invention to people with investment money, concatenated with long nights of working to make your invention work better, cheaper, and more reliably?

    On the other hand, patenting needn't be terribly expensive if you do most of the grunt work yourself. The patent office has low fees for "small entities," which includes individual inventors.

    If you publish, you won't profit directly (although if it's a nobel-prize winning invention, you will), but you will (in principle) prevent somebody else from patenting it. In practice, actually, the patent office is not very good at finding prior art in the literature (to be fair, they have roughly one day per invention to do both the literature search and also the write-up), so what you'll actually accomplish by publishing is to give other parties a piece of evidence that they can use to challenge the validity of the patent. (And, of course, the other parties who have the same idea will probably not have exactly the same idea, and the details of their patent will probably be slightly different, so not the entire patent will be invalidated.)

    Disclaimer: IANAL (but, on the other hand, you can google Patent Claim Drafting... [google.com] :)

  • Another option is an angel investor. You don't need a patent to talk to investors, they just want to know if it's a viable business.

    Most areas have local groups that hook up inventors with angel investors.
  • In the UK (Score:2, Informative)

    by whencanistop (1224156)
    In the UK, fortunately you have a nice little website [businesslink.gov.uk] that tells you all about how to take ideas you have and turn them into money.

    Fortunately, they also have a section on protecting your intellectual property [businesslink.gov.uk] that tells you how to do that as well (in terms of patenting, NDAs, Trademarks and Design right). I'm sure the processes aren't quite as straightforward as they look like they are here, but you get the point.

    On a personal note - the question of whether to patent is a difficult one. In the intern
  • If it would be hard for you to find the $50.000 to patent it, you won't have the $5.000.000 to enforce your patent in court.
  • And not just in the free software sense. There are a lot of great ideas out there that don't have the capacity to become traditionally successful ventures. Either the capital isn't there (as in your case), the idea doesn't have enough potential to really stand on its own, patenting would be difficult because of prior art or there isn't a very strong business case to be made. In any of these situations, the idea might still be valuable to someone, somewhere and it would be a shame for it to fall by the waysi
    • by toppavak (943659)
      Sorry, a slight error there. Smithies won the Nobel for incorporating genetic alterations into mice using embyronic stem cells- not knockout mice, although he did invent that technique at the same time as Mario Capecchi. For that work they shared the Lasker Award along with Martin Evans.
  • You asking if you should get a patent on a site that is notoriously anti-patent? I'd say you're looking for a certain answer.

    At the risk of being modded down, I'm not going to give you that answer. Get the patent. It is good legal protection. It will help if someone else tries to steal your idea and sues you for infringing on the patent they just got. It will help if you later decide to actually get paid for your idea and need to keep others from stealing it.

    The patent basically says you thought of thi

  • by Peaker (72084) <gnupeakerNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:08AM (#29756755) Homepage

    Ideas are a dime a dozen.
    Implement something.

    There is no sense in rewarding people for thinking up ideas. We simply don't need to, as good ideas will be thought out even if we don't.

    The problem is finding people who would implement those ideas.

    • by Toy G (533867)

      +1. In business (and that includes the technology business), execution is everything. One of my great-grand-uncles worked with Guglielmo Marconi, patented lots of stuff related to radio transmission (in Europe, in an age when patents really meant something and were hard to get) and still died a poor man.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260)

      Ideas are a dime a dozen. Implement something.

      There is no sense in rewarding people for thinking up ideas. We simply don't need to, as good ideas will be thought out even if we don't.

      The problem is finding people who would implement those ideas.

      Agreed.

      The notion of patents was created to protect not just ideas, but inventions -- complex collections of moving parts. At the heart of a truly novel invention, there's typically one or two really good ideas, but those ideas are just the beginning of the effort needing to make something that actually works.

      Take your idea, and build something from it, and then you'll have something of value to protect. The idea itself isn't worth much.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      If only there was a system tio protect ideas while looking for someone that can implement them.

  • In general, lone inventors don't benefit much from patents.

    I used to work for $BIG_COMPANY where we had a process where a team of lawyers and engineers would evaluate everything someone thought remotely patentable, and they would consider whether the patent was worth the time and money (usually several thousand dollars even though they used in-house counsel and did thousands of these a year). The analysis was based not only on the validity of the patent and the value of the innovation covered, but also t

  • I spent a good 3 weeks implementing an interesting idea that the person who came up with decided he wanted to patent. My conditions for working on it were that either the thing be treated as a trade secret or that it be allowed to be used in any Open Source application of any kind. He wanted some stupid mealy-mouthed non-commercial clause license.

    In my opinion, no matter what the guy thinks of his idea, he will never make any money off of it by trying to keep such tight fisted control over it. His best b

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "In my opinion, no matter what the guy thinks of his idea, he will never make any money off of it by trying to keep such tight fisted control over it."

      laughable at best.

      Look around at who makes money.

      "Now the stupid idea is going to languish in obscurity because he's too afraid to actually get it out there in a way people will ever use."
      Well that is stupid. If he is protected he should be getting it out there. Of course if it's a stupid idea, then it doesn't matter if it's closed or open, cause it's stupid.

  • by nwanua (70972) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:16AM (#29756877) Journal

    The following assumes this is a hardware patent you have in mind.

    The days of patenting for the lone inventor are over, seriously. And what if you do patent it? You'll end up spend the bulk of your time, brain power, and meager resources defending it. Unless you have the resources to hire a cadre of lawyers, you won't even be able to defend infringements. And we've not even discussed international patents... which still won't stop Chinese knockoffs (at least not for the foreseeable future).

    For insights into why the patent process is seldom useful for individuals:
    http://bit.ly/12x7EJ [bit.ly]
    http://bit.ly/3glVfj [bit.ly]

    There is a lot of money being made in the (e.g.) open-hardware arena: you make a gadget (brilliant idea or not), sell a couple hundred or thousand, make some money and move on to the next thing (see Arduino, Chumby, SeeedStudio, Adafruit, Sparkfun). These guys publish the specs of pretty much everything they make, with enough detail that anybody else could copy it. Yet they are rather successful for small (closely held) businesses.

    So my advice is:
    Step 1: make
    Step 2: publish (gets you publicity for your gadget BTW)
    Step 3: open up a store front and sell
    Step 4: ??? (there is no step 4)
    Step 5: Profit!!!

    It's easy to get anything manufactured in small quantities these days. And by the time somebody bothers to clone your idea (which kind proves that you must have made money, in a backhanded compliment kind of way), the hope is you've made some cash, and can spend your time innovating on the next great thing.

    This is the secret to happiness my friend.

    • 1) make
      2) publish
      3) watch a company in china crank out millions of them
      4) cry

      Patent AND publish.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      Unless you have the resources to hire a cadre of lawyers, you won't even be able to defend infringements.

      If you have a really strong case, there are a few firms who will take it on contingency.
  • If my ideas are indeed valuable, what is the best way to gain anything from them without investing too much financially?

    What you're asking is impossible. If you really want to gain from your idea, then you're gonna have to take a risk. That's just life. And the willingness to take risk is what separates the plebs from the big winners.

    And, for the record, I'm a proud pleb... I just happen to realize it. :)

  • Another option that you can think of is to patent it in another country. Say, India/China etc.
    The patent will cost you very less - even if you go for a big shot lawyer, it will cost you in the range of 2000$ or less.

    Now, once it is patented, you go about implementing the same and try to sell it in the patented country.
    If it makes enough money, you can apply for a PCS form to patent it internationally or maybe in US alone.

    Please note that patenting usually does not guarantee you any income. The stats suggest

  • all my intelligence and experience from my time on this earth, i will put my opinion as elaborately and as eloquently i can in the form below :

    fuck that.

  • it's like 500 bucks for a lone inventor.

    Paying someone to do a patent search is expensive. An expense that's not longer justified, BTW.

    Just patent it; which is a for of publishing.
    Yes, it might get rejected. OTOH, you can research it yourself pretty decently in a week end and up your odds.

    When patented, you get the added advantage of saying you ahve a patent; which in important to a lot of people with money.
    Looks good to investors, looks good to employers, looks good to clients.

  • File a provisional patent application, only $100 if you're a small entity; requires disclosures, but not claims, and you have one year to begin the patent prosecution process. See 35 USC Section 111(b).
  • 10% not more (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ElitistWhiner (79961) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @11:16AM (#29757791) Journal

    Less than 10% of the profit-stream is attributable in my experience to patent technologies. True value is that other 90% brought to the market by the corporation in design, development, marketing and support.

    Waaay toooo much emphasis is placed upon technology in the value chain of venture building capital. Toooooo little protection is afforded by USPTO to protect by patent alone the great ideas and inventions.

    Sell the idea/tech to the VC community who are best equipped to monetarize a marketplace solution to the problem you've solved. A 10% or less share after all is said and done is huge for the inventor.

  • Then you're better off patenting it.

  • Don't know how easy it would be to reverse engineer your idea but if it would be prohibitively difficult you could always take the WD-40 route [wikipedia.org].

    WD-40's formula is a trade secret. The product is not patented in order to avoid completely disclosing its ingredients.

  • Ideas on their own are a dime a dozen, and a lot of people get all crazy when thinking that their ideas are worth something, and need patenting, protecting, secrecy, etc.

    Ideas are easy and incredibly overrated. Bringing the idea to something that can be sold, and then actually selling it, is the hard part.

    So unless you have a real interest in pursuing this as a business, don't waste your money. If you have some interest, but aren't sure, then spend the $100 or so on a provisional patent. That buys you a

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @01:37PM (#29759731) Homepage

    I'm going to get flamed by the usual losers for this, but anyway...

    I hold three software patents. One was sold as part of a deal that made me several million dollars back in the 1980s. One made me $600,000 in licensing fees. I'm pursuing an infringement claim against DoD on the third. I also have another patent pending. I put "Inventor" on my tax return.

    Each of these patents was an early patent in an area where previous attempts to solve the problem had failed. In each case, the patented technology came with a working application or a successful demo. So these weren't just "ideas", they were ideas that worked. That's when patents are worthwhile - you've solved a hard problem, you're not with a big enough company to exploit it, and doing a startup doesn't seem to be the right answer.

    The key point here is that a patent plus a demo version is more valuable than either alone.

    This history isn't all that unusual here in Silicon Valley.

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