Research an Invention BEFORE Writing a Patent
I was the bad guy today. I had to be the bearer of some bad news.
A man contacted me with an idea he wanted to patent. Let’s call him Jim. JIM was plenty excited about his idea. Jim was so excited in fact, that he actually had dreams at night of his idea’s success, and he’d already paid a lawyer to write and file a provisional application. Jim came to us to produce good technical drawings needed for the non-provisional application his lawyer was currently preparing.
His idea was good. It was seemingly novel and useful in a market full of money right now; it was potentially very lucrative. Out of curiosity more so than due diligence, I typed his idea into The Google. Well what do you know: this light bulb had been lit before. I found one patent for a similar invention from 1855, and I found another nearly identical invention patented 1993: still active.
This information took me less than 2 minutes to find.
I felt bad for Jim. He had put weeks of effort and I don’t know how much money into this idea only for me to say “Simpson’s did it” (of course with more tact). The money Jim spent with the patent lawyer had been wasted; his invention was not patentable. This could have been prevented with 5 minutes of internet searching; or a more honest lawyer (don’t laugh!).
If you have a great idea and want to develop it, before you spend the time and money on a patent just take an hour of your time and make sure it is as unique as you think it is. There are plenty of resources to help your search. Here are a few:
- Search the patent database directly at the USPTO.gov website.
- Use a free website patent search like freepatentsonline.com or google patents.
- Type the idea into any internet search engine like Yahoo or The Almighty Goog.
- Or just go to your local library and ask a librarian to search for you.
You can also pay for a lawyer or patent search service to find conflicting prior art. But before spending any money, just sit down with the internet for an hour- it could save you a great deal of time and money. Don’t repeat Jim’s mistake.
Happy inventing, and good luck with your idea!