Inventing New Products/Inventions/Patent Question


I have a question about patents in general. I have been researching for patents on my idea and have noticed several people's names and patent numbers for example on one type of item. Maybe there are variations, can you explain that? Basically I have invented a prototype that is not currently available for sale, nor can I find a patent on it, but it is combined with the use of a patented retail product. In other words, people are selling this but not inside of my item? I sound confusing, I'm sorry. If I pay retail and put their item into my product, the owner of the patented item could steal my idea which is putting it into my own unpatented product, so do I try and patent a similar item to one that already has a patent and go from there? Or do I patent my product with their retail purchased item? Is that even allowed? Here is a simpler way to answer my question, if somebody has a patent on a screw, and I want to use a screw in my product, do I have to buy the rights to use the screw from the patent owner?

ANSWER: Kathy,

You said you planned to write/submit a Disclosure, are you aware the U.S. is now a "First to File" and no longer a "First to Invent" Country? In other words, disclosure (not sure who you intend to submit it to)filed at the patent office offers nothing of value in terms of protection. One's only "legal" protection is when a patent issues to you (could take a year or two or more depending on what category of patent is filed).

What you might consider doing after you establish your invention is potentially patentable as shown by a professional prior art patent search findings --which should cost you no more than $250-$500 and should be accompanied by (a) eight/ten similar patents plus (very important)(b) a letter from an attorney indicating your invention is more likely patentable than not. The search should be undertaken by a professional search company who liaises with a patent attorney (entire cost including legal letter should fall within the above amounts).

Just remember, the US is now a "First to File" country (first to the patent office gets the patent "if" an invention qualifies for one).

Penny Ballou

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you. I am still checking into it with an attorney. My first quote was $1,000 to submit my own disclosure and $3,000 for them to write it. I work at a University and I could maybe take a class in patenting or they might have services to help me, I'm waiting to hear back still.

I am a graphic designer so I have already drawn up a detailed diagram. I know I told you my invention combines something only patented/sold separately for only one purpose, my design combined would create two purposes. Which is the one main purpose for my patent.

It's hard to explain this. Those two features are the most important to me to get patented. To make it even better I can combine seven all together into this item of my creation, but if I combine the seven, can somebody just patent the 6? Leave out the one?

I don't know if I need seven different patents, or have a diagram with my item with each item combined into this and the final including all seven?

If I include all seven it gives this patent a whole new purpose as well as the main two. If I include all seven, I am pretty sure nobody would have that patented, but the two is where it could be easily stolen from me and used in different ways, but with seven mine would be complete and very unique.

The two main ideas, people could make a quick buck combining those two together in different ways. Only with seven can it be a totally different product with a different and additional final purpose.

I'm in no hurry, I'm also really worried about the "one year" rule and finances and how far along in development I will even be then.

I'm wondering if I should just combine the two, and do another with all seven? It would be nice to get all of it together and not worry so much about the two, but with all seven my similar patent list would be very lengthy.

Sorry for the long delay in answering your follow-up questions:

You appear to have several issues and frankly, since there's nothing you can actually disclose
the only thing you might get back is a generalized opinion. Your best bet is visit a local attorney or agent for advice. Call ahead as some of them offer free 15-30mins interviews others charge a nominal fee for their advice.

Penny Ballou  

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Penny Ballou


The Invention Process; Royalties; Licensing Inventions/Products; Pricing; Direct to Market; Marketing/Promotions; Patent Searching; DIY patent writing; Types of patents/costs/how to's; Funding (grants and Angel investors); Prototyping; Off-Shore sourcing.


I am founder of an inventors group; Advisory Board President of; former Licensing Executive Society member; researcher for and a consultant; plus moderate and contribute to several online inventor discussion groups.

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Invention development: well-studied and applied in all aspects of the process and an inventor myself with one invention in patent pending and others ramping up. Lived and attended schools in Mainland China and the UK.

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