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Patents Your Rights Online

Should I Publish Or Patent? 266

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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  • Re:come on (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld@gmai l . c om> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:36AM (#29756373) Homepage
    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:The choice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vohar ( 1344259 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:44AM (#29756467)

    Oh quit the moral bullshit, people need to eat too and rent isn't free.

    I totally agree. If it's a good idea, -someone- is going to make money off it. If he gives his idea away, then everyone but him is going to profit off it. I say he deserves to get his cut.

  • 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: [] []

    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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Small entity? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sgt. B ( 926642 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @11:02AM (#29757601)

    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 of how many people this has happened to.

  • by ZipK ( 1051658 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @12:02PM (#29758435)

    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.

  • 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.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan