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From the record number of patents issued in 2019, one thing is clear, intellectual property protection continues to be a cornerstone of businesses both big and small. “2019 saw a new high-watermark of 333,530 patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office.” (Tech Crunch) When it comes to intellectual property protection, startups and corporations understand that the road to success involves patents.
“The [2019 patent] figures are notable for a few reasons. One is that this is the most patents ever granted in a single year; and the second that this represents a 15% jump on a year before.”
“The high overall number speaks to the enduring interest in safeguarding IP, while the 15% jump has to do with the fact that patent numbers actually dipped last year (down 3.5%) while the number that were filed and still in application form (not granted) was bigger than ever. If we can draw something from that, it might be that filers and the USPTO were both taking a little more time to file and process, not a reduction in the use of patents altogether.” (Tech Crunch)
Patents continue to be a way to protect your product from copycats and counterfeiters. To help you get acquainted with patents and the patent process, below are a few basics about intellectual property protection.
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.
“A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.” (USPTO)
Design patents are often overlooked and underutilized compared to the more common utility patents. “Five percent of all patent applications (more than 30,000 per year) are design patents.” (Upcounsel) Design patents focus on the exterior design, features and overall aesthetics of the product. Utility patents focus on the functionality and features of your invention.
Design patents extend to what is exactly shown in the line drawings, nothing more. “Some products might need multiple design patents. Each would cover a specific physical feature of the proposed product. Cars, for instance, require many design patents.” (Upcounsel) Having high-quality professional line drawings by a CAD designer is extremely advantageous. With a design patent, you are able to use the coveted phrases, patent pending and patent issued on all marketing material, and have confidence that your invention is protected for the next fourteen years. Also. when it comes to cost, design patents are considerably cheaper to file than utility patents.
Utility patents focus solely on the inner workings of your invention, its unique functions and overall usefulness. “While a utility patent is harder to get, it offers better coverage. The utility patent has stronger intellectual property protections built into the patent system.” (Upcounsel) An invention is deemed useful if it provides an identifiable benefit and is capable of use. People often refer to utility patents as “patents for invention”. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, ninety-percent of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents. With a utility patent your invention will be protected for the next twenty years.
Often times, proper patent protection can mean the difference between success and failure for a hardware startup.
Our team works closely with the Hawaii State Bar Association and understands the importance of patent protection for startups. If you have a question related to patent protection, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
When it comes to filing a patent for your invention, patent drawings are an absolute must. These drawings provide you with the ability to disclose all details and functions of your product in a way that neither words nor photographs can. When you are filing a patent application, you are defining your invention and being awarded a filing date for it, which means that every single detail of your invention needs to be included at this time.
“For applications filed on or after December 18, 2013, other than design applications , U.S. patent laws no longer require that an application contain a drawing to be entitled to a filing date. See 35 U.S.C. 111. Having said that, it is an extraordinary mistake for anyone to believe that drawings are no longer required, or that submitting drawings at the time of filing is not the absolute best practice. Furthermore, it should be understood that high quality drawings — and many of them — are the single best and most economical way to expand the scope of any disclosure filed.” (Gene Quinn of IP Watchdog)
While it might seem that since the passage of the Patent Law Implementation Treaty Act in December of 2013 that patent drawings are not required, it isn’t that simple. “35 U.S.C. 113 continues to require one or more drawings if necessary for the understanding of the subject matter.” (Gene Quinn of IP Watchdog)
Therefore, patent drawings should be viewed as required.
Patent drawings are a set of illustrations showing the detailed features of an invention submitted during the patent application process.
“Drawings with more details have more success. They often cover what inventors forget to describe in the written disclosure. The best way to get an adequate detailed drawing is to hire a professional patent illustrator. Greatly detailed, professional drawings have an increased possibility of approval during the application process.” (Upcounsel)
We have helped many inventors with their patent application drawings. Our skilled team is knowledgeable about the details required in patent drawings. Send us an email at email@example.com to learn more about how we can help during the patent application process.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Technology and globalization have made it even easier for companies to copy a product or steal an idea altogether.
Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Having a strong intellectual property strategy or having the patent process started, is a great way to attract or solidify partnerships and funding.
Below are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.
Patent rules are strict and adhere to a tight timeline, so it is best to file for patent protection early-on in the development cycle. A provisional patent application is a good “first step” for hardware startups. A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a later filed nonprovisional patent application. It also allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the description of the invention.
It is important to note that a “provisional application for patent has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed. The 12-month pendency period cannot be extended. Therefore, an applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application for patent (nonprovisional application) during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application (United States Patent and Trademark Office -USPTO).” Once you file a provisional application the countdown clock starts ticking and your next move must be decided within the 12-month period.
In this early period, it is also best to keep quiet about your invention. You want to avoid publicizing your invention. This does not mean that you cannot meet with potential partners or product development firms, but instead that you don’t want to share your idea online or start a crowdfunding campaign just yet.
Many times the invention that you first envisioned, completely transforms during the product development process. This means that your initial patent or patent application may not cover new features that have been added on. This will leave your final product under-protected or not protected at all.
If the product is evolving quickly, consider filing a provisional patent application or a series of provisional patent applications within a year before filing a utility patent application.
While utility patents make up 90% of patents issued, design patents have been steadily on the rise because inventors are realizing that the exterior design and overall aesthetics of the invention can easily be replicated as well. Protecting both the design and functionality of an invention is necessary for long-term success.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture”. In short, this means that design patents cover exactly what is shown in the drawings, nothing more.
Like a utility patent, a design patent also lets you use the phrases patent pending and patent issued on all business-related material. Once you have been granted a design patent, you are then able to secure rights for the next fourteen years. Another important thing to keep in mind is that design patents are relatively cheap to file and maintain, as compared to a utility patent.
A design patent, coupled with a utility patent, offers a range of IP protection on both the inner workings and exterior design of your product.
Patent protection is only one part of your IP strategy. A registered trademark will help protect your brand as well. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from another—think along the lines of logo and tagline. A recognizable trademark can be extremely valuable for distinguishing your business from the competition.
Depending on the exact nature of your startup, a licensing agreement, copyright and/or trade secret protection could also be considered during your intellectual property planning and overall strategy. Speaking to a Patent Attorney early-on will let you discuss your options, weigh the benefits and build a custom strategy for your startup.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
First-time entrepreneurs, and even seasoned entrepreneurs, have questions when it comes to protecting their intellectual property (IP) and moving forward with manufacturing. No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.
Below we delve into the top three questions we frequently receive related to IP and manufacturing.
You don’t necessarily need a patent to start the design phase of product development. Often, the design phase is done in parallel with the patent creation process and filing.
Drawings from the design are included as part of the patent application and can be used as attachments to your application. It is recommended to at least file for a Provisional Patent prior to disclosing any information about the product such as designs, prototypes, and specifications to outside parties. You will also want to have your patent in the Patent Pending stage before moving forward with any manufacturing or marketing initiatives.
Ideas are a “dime a dozen”, but the real intellectual property (IP) is what gets developed, not the idea itself. Developing the functional aspect of the idea is the difficult part. All information is kept confidential and disclosed strictly on a need-to-know basis with the client’s approval.
Before entering the production manufacturing phase, several things will be conducted to determine the most cost effective and price friendly option. Material, surface finish, quantity, and post processing are factors in deciding the appropriate process for production manufacturing.
*This is the second piece in a two-part series, view part one here, FAQ: The Basics of Product Development.
We are happy to answer any additional product development questions you have, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.
Below are a few tips on how to prepare for your initial meeting with a patent attorney. Keep in mind that the first meeting can be free—being adequately prepared means that you will be able to glean as much knowledge as possible from this meeting.
The key to this description is to be concise. What does your invention do? What are the main functionalities of your invention? This written summary if often called an “invention disclosure statement”, however it doesn’t need to be formal and can be written in any form. Keep it to a page or less in length, and even a paragraph or two will be sufficient.
Write your description so that someone unfamiliar with the product can get an idea of what it does and the technology behind it. Patent attorneys deal with a variety of technology, but don’t always have an extensive technical background, so you want to be able to bring them up to speed quickly on your specific invention.
Seeing your invention is a quick and efficient way of describing your product to the patent attorney. A prototype allows the patent attorney to assess the product and understand the exact intricacies behind your invention. Depending on the exact nature of your product, a functional prototype might be just what you need for the meeting. However, line drawings or sketches of your product will also work for your initial meeting. These drawings don’t have to be formal, but they should be thorough.
This can sound slightly counter-intuitive since you are meeting with a patent attorney, however you should to conduct your own patent search beforehand. Search patent databases such as www.google.com/patents or www.uspto.gov using keywords from your “invention disclosure statement”.
From your patent research, print and bring the patents that are most similar to your idea. You can either print out the patent references or compose a list of them, so that they can be easily retrieved. This will provide a research starting point for the attorney as they conduct a more formal patent search.
We also suggest organizing the above information into a single file folder and include a business card. This way the attorney will have all of your invention information and contact information in one place.
Adequate preparation for this meeting ensures that you will get the most out of your initial meeting and hopefully gain a better understanding as to whether this route makes the most sense for your invention and stage of business.
Have additional questions about patents, prototypes or line drawings? Please send us an e-mail, email@example.com
Recently, patents, and the entire patent system, have been synonymous with reform. However, the truth remains that patents are a critical factor for sustainable success. Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.
Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. For the purpose of this piece, patents — particularly design and utility patents — will be the focus of the conversation. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused products rely heavily on patents. Before we delve into commercialization let’s quickly review what exactly a patent is.
Patent. A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.
There is nothing more time consuming and resource draining than filing a patent only to later realize that there is already a patent for a similar invention. To avoid this scenario completely, conducting a patent search is in order. Patents hinge on the fact that they are one-of-a-kind; therefore, taking the time to research current patents and confirm that an invention does not already exist, should be the very first step. The USPTO makes it possible to conduct a preliminary patent search on your own; however, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed patent search firm to assist with the bulk of the research. These firms have vast experience researching and are extremely knowledgeable in the classification systems.
Once the research portion has been conducted, the next common early-stage question that resonates in the mind of entrepreneurs is, Do I need to patent my design? Having a patent for your product design allows you to claim all rights to the product. Often a design patent is overlooked and underutilized since this type of patent focuses more on the exterior design, features and overall aesthetics of the product and less on functionality.
Design patents extend to what is exactly shown in the drawings, nothing more. Having high-quality professional line drawings by a CAD designer is extremely advantageous. With a design patent, you are able to use the coveted phrases, patent pending and patent issued on all marketing material, and have confidence that your invention is protected for the next fourteen years. A design patent coupled with a utility patent provides overlapping protection for both the inner workings and exterior design of your product, and is a powerful tool in your IP arsenal.
In contrast to design patents, utility patents focus solely on the inner workings of your invention, its unique functions and overall usefulness. An invention is deemed useful if it provides an identifiable benefit and is capable of use. People often refer to utility patents as “patents for invention”. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, ninety-percent of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents. With a utility patent your invention will be protected for the next twenty years.
Design and utility patents each have a distinct form of protection and are often used congruently. It is best to consult with a licensed patent attorney to review the options and see what type of protection will be the most beneficial and cost-effective.
So, you have done your research and are confident that your new product has not been previously patented, now is the time to decide if you need to file for a provisional or non-provisional utility patent.
In simple terms, a provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way to begin protecting an invention while you continue its development, conduct market testing and obtain funding. A provisional patent gives you exactly one year to file a non-provisional utility patent application and move forward in the patent process. If you do not file within the one year time period, you have in essence “abandoned” the utility patent application and no longer have claim to the invention. Filing a non-provisional patent application establishes a firm filing date and starts the official examination process with the USPTO.
It is important to understand that although you file a patent application, there is no guarantee it will be issued. Examiners will review your application and look for prior patents that may conflict with what you are claiming. However, once you are granted a patent, you then have all rights to the invention and can enforce any infringement upon it.
While patents cannot provide a guarantee that your product will be successful, patents do allow you to secure all rights and claims to your invention and provide comprehensive IP protection. Patents can bolster competitive advantage and assist in the streamlining of the entire commercialization process. Without patent protection, some inventions cannot be commercialized at all because both the inventor and investors understand that the product can easily be duplicated, leaving them with no recourse if their product is copied. Taking the time to develop a high quality patent means much more in the marketplace and can ultimately determine the success or failure of a product.
*This post was written by 3D Innovations and published on the PD&D website. Here is the link to view our article there.
Design patent applications are on the rise. In the past, inventors have focused more on utility patents alone to protect the functionality of their invention, and securing rights to prevent others from duplicating their product. While utility patents make up 90% of patents issued, design patents have been steadily on the rise because inventors are realizing that the exterior design and overall aesthetics of the invention can easily be replicated as well. Protecting both the design and functionality of an invention is necessary for long-term success.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture”. In short, this means that design patents extend to what is exactly shown in the drawings, nothing more. For this reason, it is extremely important to have professional line drawings completed for your application. These patent illustrations mean everything to your design patent application and subsequent patent.
Similar to a utility patent, a design patent also lets you use the phrases patent pending and patent issued on all business related material. Once you have been granted a design patent, you are then able to secure rights for the next fourteen years. Another important thing to keep in mind is that design patents are relatively cheap to file and maintain, as compared to a utility patent.
A design patent, coupled with a utility patent, offers a range of IP protection on both the inner workings and exterior design of your product. We highly recommend that you consult with a licensed patent attorney to review your patent options and decide what will be the most-beneficial for your specific invention.
Have questions about professional line drawings for your design patent? Please send them our way – firstname.lastname@example.org