Frequently Asked Questions
1. What's the best way to proceed if I think I want a patent?
Well, it's not to rush out to a patent attorney before you do certain other things. Read my free article Where and How to Start. This covers the subject in detail.
2. Should I turn my invention over to one of those TV advertisers who say that they will submit it to industry?
It is my opinion, the opinion of the Federal Trade Commission, and the opinion of every other ethical service provider who helps inventors, that these invention submission services are essentially worthless. Their prices are too high -- often reaching more than $10,000 -- and their success rates are near zero.
3. What is a patent search, and can I do this myself?
A patent search is the searching of existing patents to determine if your invention is already patented. It may also consist of searching other printed materials, such as catalogs, magazine articles, etc., to discover unpatented inventions that are the same or similar to yours. Any public information, in any form, that describes your invention is called "prior art," and may disqualify you from obtaining a patent. Yes, you can do you own search, but I don't advise it. Read why in my free article, About the Patent Search.
4. How can I be sure that a patent attorney or patent searcher won't steal my invention?
Patent service professionals are ethically bound, and would be out of business very quickly if they were involved in unethical practice. In all of the years that I've been working with patents and inventions I have never heard of an invention being stolen by any professional. Even the sleazy invention submitters are not interested in stealing an invention. People steal products; they don't steal inventions. Worry more about losing money to unethical marketers than to the people who search and write patents. Read my free article, How to Find a Good Patent Attorney for more on this subject.
5. How can I protect my ideas and inventions prior to filing my patent application?
Two ways: 1) Keep a journal in which you record all significant work you do in developing your invention. 2) File a Confidential Disclosure with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. These are covered in detail in my free article, Protecting Your Invention Before Filing for a Patent.
6. Which is best: licensing for royalties or producing and marketing for myself?
This depends largely on the kind of person you are. It takes a lot of money to start up a small business. My book, How to Finance Your Invention or Great Idea shows you how to solve this problem. But more important is whether or not you are a "true inventor," or "true entrepreneur." The true inventor is often creative at the expense of driving projects to completion, and even though a genius in his or her own way, does not make a good entrepreneur. The true entrepreneur is focused and goal driven. He or she may have only one or two great ideas in his lifetime, but has the drive to realize a fortune by bringing his invention (product) to market. Most of us lie somewhere between the two extremes of true inventor and true entrepreneur. My book, How to Finance Your Invention or Great Idea, covers in detail both of these ways to make your fortune.
7. After I get my patent, how do I find a manufacturer that will pay me royalties?
There are several ways -- too many to cover here. Read my free article, Licensing Your Invention.
8. How can I find a good patent attorney?
This isn't as easy as you might think. For example, the yellow-pages of your phone book can get you in trouble. Read my free article, How to Find a Good Patent Attorney.
9. What is a prototype, and do I need one?
A prototype is a model that looks approximately like the product your invention will eventually become. Ideally, it is a working model that can be used to demonstrate your invention. In the case of a very large or very expensive item, a "virtual" prototype -- that is, one created entirely on the computer screen -- can be used instead of a physical model. All of this is covered in my free article, How Do I Get a Prototype?
10. How about invention evaluators? Should I have my invention evaluated?
There are a number of ways to evaluate, and some cost a relatively small amount of money. Others involve market research, and are relatively expensive. My free article, Where and How to Start, covers all of the main ways to evaluate, and helps you to decide whether any of these are for you.
11. What services does a mentor provide me, and do I really need one?
I can only speak for myself, of course. I provide an evaluation of your invention's prospects for making money. And I advise you on the most effective marketing channel for your invention. In many cases I will put you in touch with an honest marketing agent, depending on the nature of your invention. And I'll show you how to save money on your patent search, your patent attorney or agent, and your prototype. I work alone. I'm affordable. I'm always available by telephone or e-mail. And I offer to send your money back if you aren't satisfied with my services.