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, “Gee, why don’t they just make a garage door that automatically opens when carbon monoxide is detected?” And an idea was born.

The hook is basically one sentence that encompasses the spirit of your patent. In this case - A garage door that automatically opens when carbon monoxide is present.

Let’s look at some other patented products that are on the market to see if we can determine what the hook is:

How about those little cardboard sleeves you see around coffee cups? Patent #5,205,473 (which you’ll see plastered on the side of Starbucks coffee cup sleeves) hook is:  Corrugated beverage containers and holders are which employ recyclable materials, but provide fluting structures for containing insulating air.

What about the millions of computer mouse’s (mice?) that have been produced over the years? Patent # 3,541,541 (long since expired) is for a “X-Y Position Indicator For A Display System”

Have you ever given any thought to the common zipper? Patent #557,208 (not the first for a zipper) explains: “A device for detachably connecting the flaps of shoes or other articles

So, how do you establish the hook? Here are a few guidelines:

  • How does your invention do it easier, faster, and/or cheaper? In the case of the zipper, it would be faster to put on clothes (much faster than using buttons or tying a string).
  • What’s absolutely new? Computers have obviously been responsible for a range of new inventions, but how to easily control them…to communicate with them. The mouse made it easy to do tasks that – at one time – needed to be typed by hand (a very time consuming process).
  • What’s different about it? In the case of the coffee cup, it’s much easier to hold sturdy cardboard than flimsy foam insulated cups.

The main thing to look for is…what’s the big benefit? How can this benefit someone’s life? Why will the world find this invention worthy for a patent? Establish the hook with this benefit in mind, and you are well on your way to a very good idea.

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