Reader Question: Will my trademark application be denied if…

"Suzy" asks: If I look on uspto.gov and see that there is a company already trademarked under a name similiar to my company's name will my trademarked registration be denied?   My response:   Not necessarily. Just because someone else has trademarked a name similar to yours does not always hurt your chances for getting a trademark.   A perfect example is the trademarked name "Delta".   There are two companies using this name. First, Delta Airlines. Second, Delta Faucets. How can these two companies claim the trademark for Delta? The answer lies in trademark categories.   As of this writing there are 45 trademark categories (divided by products and services). A few examples of categories are machinery products, musical instruments, medical device products, rubber products, restaurant services, communications services, and on and on.   Delta Faucets and Delta Airlines are both allowed to use the tradema
Posted By John Rizvi In Trademarks

Patent Writing Secrets: What’s the Hook?

Before beginning to draft the patent application there is one step you must take to make sure you get MAXIMUM protection for your idea (and to make sure no one gets around it).

And that step is establishing the hook. Allow me to explain what a hook is with a rather famous example in patent circles.

Years ago a man caught a rather tragic news story.

A woman had died from carbon monoxide poisoning while trapped in her garage. The story goes the woman drove into her garage and shut the door behind her BEFORE shutting off her car (this was up north, in the winter, where people normally do these things). By some series of events the woman fell out of her car before she was able to shut the engine off. Trapped on the ground unable to open the garage door or turn off her car, the woman suffocated to death.

Now this is where the story gets interesting (from a patent perspective)…

The man watching the news story said to himself, &ldquo

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Reader Question: Should I take my idea to an investor before getting a patent?

L.C. asks:

Quick question. Would there be any issues going to angel investors, or venture capitalists before starting the entire patent process? Would that spark any legal trouble down the line?

My answer.

It's not that it would spark legal trouble down the line. It's that it could. Let me explain...

The patent process grants you a few very specific and very attractive rights. Notably, the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without your permission.

However, you do NOT get these rights before you patent the invention.

So that means that if you disclosed your invention to anyone (say, an angel investor or venture capitalist) and they "stole" your idea...you could be out of luck.

Now, one of the common ways people try to protect their rights before they get a patent is by using a non-disclosure agreement (or NDA). A common definition of an NDA is a le

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Problems to Products to Profits

I am NOT alone.

It always amazes me how many people share my same problems (and are on the constant lookout for solutions - i.e. new products - for those problems).

The other day a friend sent me a picture (below) of a bunch of "electricity splitters" plugged into each other...with one power outlet running a dozen or so devices. I looked at that picture and image the inventor of the power strip, getting frustrated at his growing number of devices/limited power sources. And finally inventing a solution that you can find in every office and home around the world.

Yes - necessity is the mother of invention.

With that in mind I browsed the internet for more "unorthodox" inventions. Now, it's easy to laugh at these pictures, and you should. But remember...these people are CRYING for soluti

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Inventor Celebrated by World’s Largest Search Engine

On April 24, Google celebrated the birthday of Gideon Sundback, considered the genius behind the zippers most people use today. The search engine is commemorating the occasion with a large, interactive zipper in place of its usual logo.Inventor Gideon Sundback

In 1917 Sundback patented the "Separable Fastener".

It is important to note that Sundback did NOT invent the zipper. That honor goes to, first, Elias Howe (who patented the "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure") and then Whitcomb Judson who created the "Clasp Locker", the precursor to the device we use today.

However, neither device gained pop

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Cool Patent of the Month – Creepy Crawlies on Your Skin

Imagine if every time someone called you, your skin vibrated. Sound kind of weird? Well, that’s exactly what Nokia is planning to do with a new piece of patent pending technology called “Haptic Communication”.

What is this new patent application about?

The technology looks fairly simple. It’s just a piece of fabric that “vibrates” according to the strength of a magnetic field. What’s interesting though is that this fabric is attached to your skin. The unusual use is pairing this to a cell phone, so that you – and only you – will be able to know when it rings. I’m sure they’ve got other uses in mind. Imagine a battle zone full of soldiers equipped with multiple patches. Buzz the one on the right arm and the whole platoon heads right. Activate the one on the leg and watch as everyone hits the deck.

Silently communicating with a multitude of people at once…there are plenty of pos

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Patent Success or Failure Hinges on This…

I am often asked this question:   "Should an Inventor build on his Strengths or try to overcome his Personal Weakness?"   Well, I recently had to choose between the two. Like many people with a career that involves long periods of sitting behind a desk, I struggled with my weight. I’ve never enjoyed exercise, but luckily I do not have a sweet tooth either. To tackle this problem I chose to “build on my strength.” Instead of forcing myself to workout to get back into shape, I decided to eat healthier and eat less. Since then I’ve lost over twenty pounds.Weak vs. Strong

All of my significant success has come from situations where I ignored my weaknesses and maximized my strengths. On the other hand, my greatest failures have come from times

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

The Trademark Checklist: 7 Steps You Must Take Before Filing

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a call from a distressed business owner who – after using one of those ‘trademark filing’ services online – contacts me because their trademark got rejected.

And it always brings to mind the origin story of the lucky horseshoe.Trademark Mistakes

Legend has it a blacksmith (who later became St. Dunstan) was approached by a man who asked that horseshoes be attached to his own cloven feet. Dunstan recognized the customer as Satan and explained that he must shackle him to the wall to perform the service. While hammering, Dunstan deliberately made the job so excruciatingly painful that the bound devil begged for mercy. He refused release until the Devil promised to never enter a house where a horseshoe was displayed from the door.

Hence the reason today’s d

Posted By John Rizvi In Trademark Basics

Patented 120 years ago: The electric tattoo machine

If you are an inventor with tattoos, you must read this...

I just tripped upon this interesting little story about the patent behind the electric tattoo machine.

Seems this tool was based on an engraving machine invented by Thomas Edison. It just goes to show how you can take an invention that is already out there...add a little twist of your own...and come up with an entirely new patent.

Click the link for the full story:

http://reason.com/blog/2011/12/08/got-a-tattoo-say-thanks-to-the-electric

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

The Story of the Sexy Screen Starlet Turned Patent Holder

The November 28th, 2011 edition of Newsweek magazine featured an interesting article on a rather unexpected inventor – the “most beautiful woman in the world” actress Hedy Lamarr.

The story of how she became a patent holder is an interesting one…

It start in 1931 with a Czech art film called Ecstasy. In it is a nude scene that caught the eye of ammunition manufacturer Fritz Mandl. They marry, and the young bride is soon attending dinner parties with generals and scientists who regale her with their stories of advances in missile technology.

Fast forward ten years and she’s in Hollywood hearing stories of German torpedoes downing boats in the North Atlantic during the blitz. Recalling the details of the discussions with her ex-husbands colleagues, she turns inventor to he

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

The Story of the Sexy Screen Starlet Turned Patent Holder

The November 28th, 2011 edition of Newsweek magazine featured an interesting article on a rather unexpected inventor – the “most beautiful woman in the world” actress Hedy Lamarr.

The story of how she became a patent holder is an interesting one…

It start in 1931 with a Czech art film called Ecstasy. In it is a nude scene that caught the eye of ammunition manufacturer Fritz Mandl. They marry, and the young bride is soon attending dinner parties with generals and scientists who regale her with their stories of advances in missile technology.

Fast forward ten years and she’s in Hollywood hearing stories of German torpedoes downing boats in the North Atlantic during the blitz. Recalling the details of the discussions with her ex-husbands colleagues, she turns inventor to he

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Patent Question of the Month

It's no secret lawyers aren't cheap. But just how much is it to retain an attorney to draft your patent application?

Let's take a closer look...

--- Question from a Reader ----

Matt asks, "I was wondering, what is it that you do to confirm that a certain idea is not already taken? Also What are some of the fee's in hiring a Patent Attorney and how much?"

Dear Matt,

To answer your second question first - you're looking at about $3,000 to $15,000 for us to draft the patent.

If that seems like a lot, consider these two points.

First, the average hourly rate for any lawyer is $150 an hour for a recent grad and up to $500 an hour for an experienced attorney. So imagine for a second you had an attorney defend you in a court case. He'd spend a few days preparing for the case. He'd have his time in court. And of course there would be the follow up to the court case.

Let's say that's jus

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Pursuing Software Patents? Watch out for this…

In 2010 Google’s innovative Android mobile phone technology was the target of no fewer than 12 infringement suits from rivals Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and others.

Part of the problem is the culture clash between old style devotees to intellectual property rights and adherents to the newer, more collaborative environment of open source. But the bottom line is always money: Billions of dollars are at play in what can only be described as the brokerage of intellectual capital.   The focal point in the patent war is the data center, the methods by which companies collect, analyze and store the vast amounts of information they accumulate over millions of transactions.

Recognizing that information is the new currency, Google recently purchased more than 1,000 database patents from IBM for an undisclosed amount of money. In

Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

Are prototypes necessary before you get a patent?

A prototype for your idea is an important part of building the actual product. But for the patent process, it is not necessary. In fact, there are only three things the US Patent Office requires to review your idea. And those are:   1. The application 2. Drawings 3. The application fee   That's all you need to apply for a patent.   And in fact, building a prototype in some cases could be a huge waste of time and money.   For example, a few years back an inventor came into our office with a huge lawnmower blade. What was special about this particular lawnmower blade was that it had smaller blades (about 1 inch tall) welded on both sides of the main blade. This was to help cut up the grass into smaller pieces.    He had obviously spent a lot of time making this thing. All of the welds were
Posted By John Rizvi In Patents

7 Reasons Why Trademarks Protect You

If you are in business, and are successful and profitable, your business name should be registered.

Why?

It prevents others from using it to do the same type of business, represent their businesses as yours, steal your customers and ruin your business reputation. Without it, you have a big liability, almost as if you are leaving the door to the shop open when you leave at the end of the day.

Registration also offers you other rights. The United States Patent and Trademark Office website lists seven specific ways trademarks protect your business.   1. Public Notice of Your Claim of Ownership of the Mark

When you apply for a ownership of your business name and are approved, it is published in the Official Gazette. This weekly online publication gives the public 30 days to examine

Posted By John Rizvi In Trademarks