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Martin Fruitman: Must-take steps for the inventor

Posted: May 13, 2010 1:28 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
For your immediate protection, write a description of your invention and make some sketches to clearly show its features. Sign and date every sheet of paper.

Also, have two people whom you trust, and who understand your invention and what you have written, read your description and write on every sheet of paper "I have read and I understand this paper," and then sign and date their statements. This establishes the date of your invention.

Also, keep all written or documentary evidence - such as receipts, photos with processing dates or letters - which predates the signed papers.

Providing that you have not used your invention in public, published a description or offered it for sale more than a year before (those actions kill any chance of a patent application one year after they occur), the next step is a patent search, to verify that no patent already exists on the features of your invention.

A search can usually be performed from the information on the written description suggested above.

Regardless of who you consult about your idea, definitely use only a registered patent attorney or a registered patent agent. Do not use any "idea marketing" companies, and do not sign any contracts for arrangements to sell your product.

No one can know whether your idea is marketable until you first know if it is really your idea; that is, whether someone else has a patent on it.

If you pay money for marketing the idea and it is not your idea, you are simply out that money.

If a patent search shows the idea is new, there is time to discuss marketing later.

Keep in mind that "idea marketing" companies never find a previous patent - even if there are lots of them.

A patent costs a lot of money - thousands of dollars - and takes at least two years to get.

Most of that cost has to be paid even if the U.S. Patent Office refuses to issue the patent. So you really want an honest evaluation of your chances for a patent before you apply for one.

That is what a good patent search should give you.

Martin Fruitman is a Valencia patent attorney. He can be reached at (888) 769-4332. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "It's The Law" appears Fridays and rotates between members of the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association (www.SCVbar.org). Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

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