Posts Tagged "patent"

How to Prepare for Your First Patent Attorney Meeting

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.

Prepare a brief description of your invention.

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.

Bring drawings or a prototype.

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.

Conduct your own patent search.

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”.

Print the patent search results.

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, info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Hardware Startups: Can I Patent My Invention?

August 29, 2016
3D Innovations

IP_patentA patent for your invention is useful, in that it gives you exclusive rights to the idea/product (for twenty years), allows you to license the invention and provides a strong market position. However, to obtain a patent your invention must meet certain criteria. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself in determining whether your invention is patentable.

  1. Did you invent it? A patent can only be applied for by the actual inventor or co-inventor. If you were not the inventor, but contributed financially, you will not be able to patent the product on your own. If the inventor was employed by another person or company to develop the invention, the patent will still be issued under the inventor’s name. However, ownership of the patent will be with the employer.
  2. Is your invention useful? Under U.S. law the invention must be “useful” to be eligible for protection. To meet this requirement the product must provide some benefit and is capable of use. It is important to note that most inventions meet this criteria.
  3. Is your invention “non-obvious”? If your product is already common knowledge in its field, then it would not meet this requirement. This determination is made by deciding whether the invention sought to be patented would have been obvious “to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains”. Determination of whether a particular change or improvement is “obvious” is one of the most difficult determinations in patent law.
  4. Does it fall under a patentable category? Patents are available for processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and improvements to any of those classes. If your idea is in regards to laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas or non-useful objects, it will not be eligible for a patent.
  5. Has your invention been disclosed to the public? If so, your invention will not be patentable. This requirement states that your idea must be “new” and not discussed publicly prior to the date of the filing. If you invention has been made available for public use or disclosed in a prior patent application it will not be eligible for a patent.

Have additional questions regarding the patent process? We highly recommend a visit to the USPTO website. We are also able to help answer any questions you may have, please e-mail them to info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Intellectual Property: Should You Consider A Licensing Business Model?

June 2, 2016
3D Innovations

ip-3d-printing-innovations-100In our Case Study blog post last week, Transitioning From Idea To Manufacturable Product, we discussed the ways in which we helped a client secure a licensing agreement. For many inventors a licensing agreement is often a great option since it lets them develop a product, but then puts the expenses associated with commercialization on a more experienced manufacturer.

What is a licensing agreement?

With a licensing agreement, an inventor (the licensor) develops an invention and then protects that invention through a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret, and thus creates intellectual property (IP). The inventor—the owner of the intellectual property—then licenses the invention to a second party (the licensee) whose responsibility is to commercialize the invention. As compensation for allowing another party to use its intellectual property, the licensor will receive a royalty.

Licensing agreements are becoming more common than in the past and are open to more inventors. This has also increased the number of inventors approaching manufacturers and, thus, increased competition.

What are the benefits of a licensing agreement?

Below is a list of some of the main benefits of licensing your invention/IP.

  • The licensor (inventor) does not have to finance the commercialization process.
  • The licensor avoids the need to create and operate a company.
  • The innovation will most likely get to market faster because a larger, more experienced company is handling the commercialization.
  • The innovation may reach more markets if the licensee is a large, well-funded enterprise.
  • The licensor retains ownership of the intellectual property.

How do I evaluate a potential licensee?

When evaluating a potential licensee, you should focus on its ability to effectively commercialize your invention/IP. Often times that means considering companies that have a proven track record of marketing and selling products based on inventions similar to yours. Depending on the invention, the best way to commercialize it could also be to license it to a startup, a manufacturer, or a bunch of companies in separate territories.

Suggestions for securing a licensing agreement:

  1. Assess the complexity of our product. Is there a way to get a working version developed without extensive costs? 3D printing/additive manufacturing is a frequently used method to get a functional prototype ready because of its speed and the reduced costs associated with the technology.
  2. Identify manufacturers. Find out which manufacturers currently sell product lines to large retailers where you can see that your product would be a good fit.
  3. Create a functional prototype. Create a functional prototype of your product and pitch retail buyers. The goal is to get a commitment before you actually launch. You can possibly even offer them a few months of launch exclusivity. The mock-up of your packaging is also critically important. Your product must look as retail ready as possible.
  4. Setup a meeting with an IP attorney. The attorney will be able to go over the legal aspects of the licensing agreement with you and help come up with a plan that best suits your needs.
  5. Approach the identified manufacturers. If you want to get the attention of a manufacturer, before you even talk about your product, pitch the prospect your new customer, growing sales or the commitment from a major buyer. You’ll get an appointment, and your product has a better chance of moving to the front of the line in the new product development funnel.

Have additional questions about licensing agreements? We would be happy to help answer them, please e-mail info@3d-innovations.com

Articles Referenced:

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Top Intellectual Property Questions From Startups

May 17, 2016
3D Innovations

Intellectual property (IP) is not exactly “fun or exciting” — however, it is the most important aspect of your startup and needs to be protected. Securing and protecting the intellectual property rights to your invention is key to successful commercialization.

Below we answer some of the common IP questions we hear from entrepreneurs.

When should I start thinking about protecting my startup’s IP?

IP2Immediately after your startup is formed is the best time to get all the founders on the same page regarding IP. The most valuable asset of your startup is in fact its intellectual property; therefore it should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list. IP is the heart and soul of your business and needs to be protected by patents, copyrights and/or trademarks — which ever makes the most sense for your business and invention. Without a proper IP strategy, you are leaving the door open for major complications down the road.

What type of IP protection is necessary for my business?

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused startups rely heavily on patents.

What exactly is a 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.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Why should I even consider IP protection for my startup?

If you plan on moving towards commercialization with your product, you are going to want to have control over your startup’s IP. Patents can bolster competitive advantage and assist in the streamlining of the entire commercialization process. If your startup is planning on seeking outside funding from VCs, having all of the founders on the same page regarding IP protection is imperative.

While patents do not guarantee success, they do allow you to secure all rights and claims to your invention. Without patent protection, some inventions cannot be commercialized because both the inventor and investors understand that the product can easily be duplicated, leaving them with no recourse if their product is copied.

How do I file a patent for my invention?

There are a few necessary steps to take before you actually file a patent. First, a patent search will need to be conducted to make sure that the invention does not already exist. 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.

If you plan on filing a utility patent, you will next need to decide whether to file 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.

When it comes time to begin your patent search and subsequent  patent filing, 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 additional questions regarding intellectual property? Send them our way at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Validate Your Product Idea Early-On With Quality Feedback

May 11, 2016
3D Innovations

1lightbulbWe are a nation of makers and find profound satisfaction when we successfully bring a product to market. Nothing brings this to light more than a quick glance at U.S. Patent Statistics. In 1963 there were 85,869 utility patent applications, compared to 2015 in which the U.S. Patent Office reviewed 589,410 utility patent applications—an increase of over 580%.

While the number of applications for patents in the United States shot through the roof, the number of patents granted is usually about half of the total submitted in a given year. But the point is: more and more people are making stuff. Knowing that more people are trying their hand at inventing then begs the questions:

  • How many of these patents became profitable businesses?
  • How many inventors and makers are sustaining themselves with their products?
  • Are these patents leading to cutting-edge technologies in the marketplace?

The reality is that innovation is hard. Transitioning from a minimal viable product to a functional prototype and finally a manufacturable product takes both time and money—and a big dose of determination. The product development process is a marathon, not a sprint. Can you image spending weeks, months or years perfecting a design and having it manufactured, only to see if fail after its launch? The best way to avoid this type of failure is to prepare yourself early-on and have your idea validated by your target market.

Suggestions on obtaining feedback from your target market:

  • Develop a website around your product/startup, before you even launch, to build both excitement and solicit feedback from potential customers (a quick survey link will do the trick).
  • Send out a survey (electronically or hardcopy, depending on your target market) to those interested in your product and ask about features they would find beneficial, ask about design elements and importantly ask at what price they would purchase your product.
  • If your product is easy to manufacture in small batches, make a few and hand them out to target market customers. Then hold a customer feedback session in which you obtain their feedback on the design and functionality of the product.

The information gleaned from this customer feedback not only helps you design a better product, it helps you validate your idea and develop a product that people will actually purchase. By designing a product around your target market and features they value, inventors and startups can dramatically increase their rate of success.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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When It Comes To Your Startup’s IP—Timing Is Everything

February 4, 2016
3D Innovations

It is always best to set up rigorous intellectual property (IP) practices from Day One, but more often than not it gets pushed to the side for ‘later’. If you take a step back though and put this into perspective, ask yourself one question, What is my startup’s most valuable asset? It is not the workspace or funding, but the intellectual property—the disruptive idea, brilliant invention or genius breakthrough. The IP is the heart and soul of the business. This integral piece of your startup needs to be protected by patents, copyrights and/or trademarks as well as through a few internal measures. Without a proper IP strategy, you are leaving the door open for major complications down the road.

lightbulb1To best protect your startup’s most precious asset, it’s critical to have all founders, employees and anyone involved in creating the idea sign over their intellectual property rights to the startup itself. The best time to do this is in the early-stages of business, but if that has already come and gone, we suggest doing it ‘now’ instead of ‘later’. Here are a few other instances where locking in a firm IP process is beneficial.

  • When The Founders Get Serious. Your startup has just been incorporated and the team is ecstatic. Everyone is ready to get to work and propel the business forward. Press the pause button right here for a minute, and have everyone assign IP rights to the company and document who’s come up with which business concepts. While everything is moving smoothly now, it may not be in a few months or years, and it is best to get this information locked in from the get-go.
  • When There Is A New Hire. Hiring your first employee? This is an exciting time! However, it is also a time that your startup begins to become more vulnerable and your IP needs to be protected. “Have new hires ink an agreement with a ‘present assignment’ clause that assigns everything they invent or create, whether it’s patentable or not, to the company, effective on their date of hire. Make sure the agreement includes a ‘further assurances’ clause, in which the employee agrees to cooperate in the future, if needed, to assist with showing that the startup owns the IP. To top it off, the agreement should include confidentiality obligations, permitting them to use or reveal confidential information only for the startup’s benefit.” (Tech Crunch)
  • When Seeking A Patent. Filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office can be quite a process. Before you submit your application have every inventor assign all rights for the invention to the company. This then becomes public record, so it’s easy to see whether the company owns all the rights to its IP.
  • Before Searching For Funding. If you get all founders to sign over IP rights at the beginning, finding funding gets much less complicated. If a VC gets the slightest hint of trouble between founders, they tend to walk. Having your team all on the same page is vital.

We highly suggest that you take the time early-on to consult with a licensed IP attorney to assist in the development of a strong IP strategy for your startup.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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IP Protection: The Rise of Design Patents

October 14, 2015
3D Innovations

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.

ip-3d-printing-innovations-100According 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  info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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The Correlation Between Patents & Innovation

June 24, 2015
3D Innovations

With increasing litigation sparked by patent trolls, patents and the entire patent system have come under scrutiny. Many are calling for patent system reform while others are saying that the entire system should be abolished. Getting rid of the entire patent system would “strip away much of the incentive to create, impeding investment in new technologies, slowing the production of new creative content and harming economic growth”. In short, it would be a disaster.

“Just because today’s technologies can sometimes make it easier to invent more quickly and at less cost doesn’t mean the resulting inventions are less valuable to society or less worthy of protection.” Without the protection of the patent system many entrepreneurs would be at risk of having their innovations simply stolen by larger competitors. The Patent Act of 1790 was the first federal patent statute in the United States and it was created because there was a need to safeguard inventors. While patent laws have transformed over the years, the principle that entrepreneurs and inventions need safeguards remains true.

The current patent system in place does have its flaws and standards should be tighter to ensure that only inventions truly worthy of protection receive intellectual property rights. Reforming the patent system should be the next step, not abolishing it. “The fast pace of innovation and the increasingly international flow of goods and content can create challenges for traditional patent and copyright systems. But those systems, despite their flaws, remain vital to economic prosperity. The correct approach is to update them, not dismantle them.”

Have further questions about patents, the patent process or prototyping for a patent application? Please contact us at info@3d-innovations.com

Works cited: The Scientific American – Why Patents and Copyright Protections Are More Important Than Ever

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3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Property

February 11, 2015
3D Innovations

The intellectual property of your business is a serious matter and must be protected. Product Design & Development (PD&D) recently shared an article, 5 Ways to Protect Intellectual Property, that provides helpful insight into the main topics that need to be covered in a strategic alliance agreement.

There are five topics that should be covered in any agreement where intellectual property is involved:

  1. ip-3d-printing-innovations-100Ownership of Intellectual Property: Frequently, one or more of the parties is bringing pre-existing intellectual property to the partnership. It is important to specifically identify and reserve its ownership within the contract.
  2. Licenses to Intellectual Property: Commercializing the new development will also require some cross-licensing of intellectual property rights and should cover both pre-existing and new intellectual property. These licenses need to be carefully tailored to the particular rights that the licensee needs.
  3. Responsibility for Obtaining and Maintaining Patents: Patents are an important part of intellectual property protection. Joint development agreements should include detailed provisions about which party will take the lead in obtaining and maintaining them.
  4. Responsibility for Prosecuting Infringers: It is often easier to agree to the allocation of responsibility and cooperation prior to an infringement, rather than after the infringement has occurred.
  5. Term and Termination: It is tricky to unwind a product collaboration if intellectual property is jointly owned. So careful thought during negotiations and drafting can prevent problems if the agreement terminates.

All strategic alliance agreements are unique in their own way but, when intellectual property is involved these five points are critical and should be included in the final agreement.

We invite you to read the full article on the PD&D website.

Below are a few additional articles that provide helpful intellectual property and patent information…

If you have additional intellectual property or patent questions please feel free to contact us at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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A Manufacturing Success Story

November 26, 2014
3D Innovations

NIST MEPWe are extremely excited and honored to be considered a “success story” in Hawaii by the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). There are over 940 state success stories shared on the MEP website and 12 of those are from Hawaii.

What is the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)? “MEP is a part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. Department of Commerce agency. MEP been committed to strengthening U.S. manufacturing, continually evolving to meet the changing needs of manufacturers since 1988. Through its services and partnerships it has had a profound impact on the growth of well-paying jobs, the development of dynamic manufacturing communities, and the enhancement of American innovation and global competitiveness.” (Learn more about MEP on the official website.)

The small business community in Hawaii is continuously growing and thriving; we feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such dedicated entrepreneurs. We would also like to thank our local MEP center, INNOVATE Hawaii, for the continued guidance, assistance and access to both local and national resources that have helped 3D Innovations succeed.

Please click here to read the 3D Innovations MEP Success Story.

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3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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