THINGS INVENTORS SHOULD KNOW

Know when to Fold

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Inventors beware: at this law firm we have seen inventors go broke, go bankrupt, lose their house, lose their marriage, lost everything. In some cases the market-indicators and flaws in their product were very apparent early on. 

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inventor FAQs

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We are happy to serve you, but lets make sure we can help you. There are certain questions that we have gotten many times over the years.

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Theranos and the patent system

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Are your customers raving about you on social media? Share their great stories to help turn potential customers into loyal ones.

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selling on Amazon

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 We love Amazon, and want our clients to have an Amazon presence. However, Amazon is rough, they play rough in what is already a rough game 

patent searching myths

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Have you opened a new location, redesigned your shop, or added a new product or service? Don't keep it to yourself, let folks know.

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Customers have questions, you have answers. Display the most frequently asked questions, so everybody benefits.

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what patents are what patents aren't

Additional Information

Inventors beware: at this law firm we have seen inventors go broke, go bankrupt, lose their house, lose their marriage, lost everything. In some cases the market-indicators and flaws in their product were very apparent early on.  Don't be another statistic!


Another myth\request we often get: "I want my patent to exclude others from __________________". This is probably not the best way to start a patent process. A typical patent litigation will cost a minimum of half-million. Most of our clients could never afford this. Thus, even though we get you a patent, enforcing a patent that way will likely cost more than what our clients could afford.


There are law firms that take patent cases on contingency, but these are difficult. Such law firms may only take the case when its a sure slam-dunk, e.g. where there will be no resistance, and/or the other side has already admitted culpability and is seeking settlement terms.


Instead, think of a patent as a shield, not a sword. As a defensive weapon, not an offensive weapon. As insurance, in case you get attacked by others. And finally, most important, as a way of convincing investors that you truly own and can retain rights to a certain product, business model, or technology. Mark Cuban often asks this on Shark Tank.  That is, Mark Cuban may as "is it proprietary" and "do you own it". While patents are by no means an assurance that anyone owns anything, patents can be a more valid indicator than other metrics.


Inventor FAQs

 

Read these FAQs to make sure you want to work with this law firm.


1) "In your 20 years of practice, what is the single biggest problem inventors have".


Nobody wants the invention.  The invention does not really solve any problem, or it solves a problem less effectively than many already-existing products.  We see this problem more than all other factors combined.  In fact, it is our default setting when we meet a new inventor.  We always assume this scenario until proven otherwise. In 20 years of practice, this is the scenario more than 90% of the time.  Nobody wants the invention.  IF NOBODY WANTS THE INVENTION, PATENTS ARE NOT GOING TO HELP YOU!



2) "In your 20 years of practice, what is the second single biggest problem inventors have".


The inventors lack sufficient capital to bring the product to market. They simply do not have enough money to manage all the necessary expenses of getting an invention into a sellable format, and then actually achieving sales. This is understandable because its usually pretty expensive and complex to getting an invention into a sellable format, and then actually achieving sales. A lot of factors must work together in a proper way.  A lot of things can go wrong, many of which are beyond the control of the inventor.

IF YOUR INVENTION COSTS MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO BRING IT TO MARKET, THE PATENT PROCESS IS NOT GOING TO HELP YOU!



3) "In your 20 years of practice, what is the third single biggest problem inventors have".


The inventors are trying to enter an industry they are not familiar with.  In estimating an inventor's chances of success, one factor is how many different obstacles have they already overcome as part of their day-job. If their day-job is in field X, and their invention is in field X, that scenario has a higher chance of achieving economic success. If their day-job is in field X, and their invention is in field Y, that scenario has a lower chance of achieving economic success. If the do not have a day-job at all, pursuing an invention often ends up being more of an expensive hobby than anything resembling an actual business.



4) "Will you do your patent-work for a share in the invention?" 


No.  Never.  

If you cannot self-fund your invention, you should not be pursuing it until you can the funds. Further, the only service providers who are any good will require payment in-cash. Up-front.  Ahead of time.



5) "When I get paid, you get paid".


This is the same thing as saying "no one will ever get paid".  Pass.  Good luck.



6) "I just want to sell the idea".


Never happens.  Forget it.  Any licensee worth having will want to see 1) a proven track record of actual sales, 2) an actual-working model, and 3) some indication of customer-acceptance.


THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAVING AN INVENTION, AND HAVING AN IDEA. MERE IDEAS ARE NOT WORTH MUCH.


These 1), 2), and 3) cost money and time to build, and are necessary in order to even begin the process of licensing an invention.  Further, even if you have all these a), b), and c), you may still lose every cent you put in.


Inventions are not for the faint-hearted, and not for the under-capitalized. If you don't have enough money to pursue an invention, you should stop right there until you do. Hoping that the money comes along later will not happen, never happens, unrealistic, forget it.


7) "I can't afford your rates".


Good.  Glad you said so.  No problem. You probably can't afford to be pursuing an invention anyway. I wish more clients would say this at the outset.  


Do not pursue an invention unless you have sufficient capital, at the beginning, to carry it all the way to market. Do not hope the money comes in later. Also, anything you pay a service provider, do not later try to request they return the money because the invention didn't do well.



8) "I can raise the money though Crowdfunding". 


Doubt it.  Unlikely.  >70% of crowdfunding campaigns fail. Further, many other Crowdfunding campaigns that would have failed never get launched in the first place.


Also, a good crowdfunding campaign often requires spending up-front capital, and a lot of work and effort, prior to launch. One might spend $3.5K to get a yield of e.g. $13.5K e.g. 4 months later.


Inventors often misunderstand the reasons why crowdfunding campaigns succeed, and why they fail. In both cases there is a lot of misinformation and inaccuracy. Further, a failed crowdfunding campaign is a very important negative indicator to a later investor.  This site discusses crowdfunding and inventions elsewhere, please click here if you want to know more.


9) "Can you find me someone to help make my invention?".


YES!  THANK YOU for asking! All inventors should be focusing on this (yet few do). This law firm (and some-time provider of non-legal services) has been assisting inventors with finding appropriate service providers since 2003. However, plan on spending money. No decent service provider will work for a share of the invention. All work for cash, non-refundable, must be paid in advance. Payment is never contingent on the invention’s success. 


Never.


Next, inventors who ask this question early, are usually better clients and more astute about their prospects.  We wish more people would ask this question. Getting your invention properly made, and sold, is much much more important than your patent protection.  By a factor of about 20:1.  Patents have their place, yes, but getting the invention made and sold or at least sellable-condition is much more important.



10) "If I could just get 1% of the market . . .".


This inventor should be saying "If I could just make one unit, and have one successful sale . . .".  That should be the goal.  No ever starts with "1% of the market".  They start with -one sale-. Also, people who use this expression (a common inventor-psychosis) clearly do not understand "the market".



11) "Should we wait until a patent issues before licensing?"


No.  Worst and dumbest, most piss-poor advice ever given.  Hugely self-defeating. First, this "wait" could be a long time, perhaps 2 or 3 years.  During that time you should be out there proving your market, using the "patent pending" designation.  Patents do not come quickly.


Second, you may not ever get a patent!

Many perfectly solid patent applications do not ever result in a patent!  There are over 2600 different patent Examiners, each with a different style and job-responsibilities.  Do not fall into the trap of false-assurance that you are certain to be awarded a patent.  This is never a certainty.  It does not matter whether you had a patent search done by an attorney or not, get rid of this certainty! It doesn't exist.  Its a fallacy, a canard.



12) "This invention will sell itself"


No invention ever "sells itself". This does not happen. If you think this, you are in the wrong business. Get rid of your "inventor's psychosis". Further, if it really "sold itself", why isn't it selling? Why have you never sold any units?



13) "I have been burned by an Invention Submission Corporation. Can you help me get my money back?"


No. No one can. We have met about 40-50 people who have learned this painful lesson. There is usually not much anyone can do. But if you go through these FAQs carefully, including improving your understanding of the patent process, you might increase your chances of success the 2nd time around. 



14) "Should I go to trade shows?"


Yes. In fact, you probably won't succeed without going to trade shows. In this day of constant Internet communication, oversharing, etc, there is a growing movement and backlash of people who want to meet and do business in person. Many persons with significant influence don't want to do business with someone they have never met. Further, trade shows provide an excellent way to better understand one's market, and be around people in a specific, targeted industry and see examples of successful products.  But these cost money.


INVENTORS!  GET OUT FROM BEHIND YOUR COMPUTER-SCREEN AND GO MEET PEOPLE IN YOUR INDUSTRY!

Those clients of ours that refuse to do this, we end up -firing- them.



15) "What if someone steals my invention?"


Why would they want to?  Many inventions take at least 1 year of full-time work before they begin to return any capital at all.  Who would want to "steal" a full-time job for no pay?

The people who say this, have a type of "persecution psychosis" and/or "inventors psychosis".  Almost always, the people who take this position, their idea is 1) already in existence, and has been for many years AND\OR 2) pedestrian, boring, solves a (perceived) problem that does not actually exist, thus not worth stealing in the first place.

Again, inventors who over-focus on this question need a psychiatrist, not an attorney.



16) "What about the inventor with the windshield wipers?"


The inventor with the windshield wipers was Dr. Robert Kearns, subject of the <extremely dull> film "Flash of Genius" (2008), starring Greg Kinnear. Originally, Ford was interested in working with Dr. Kearns, totally on-the-level and will to pay fair value for his inventions.  But Dr. Kearns, mentally unstable and having an extremely hostile and unpleasant personality, made himself so difficult to work with that in the end he screwed himself out of every good chance he had. This is an excellent, interesting story, but is a statistical anomaly. Do not expect this type of problem to happen to you.

Anyone who has watched this film, and understands it well, they get a $ Discount on any services we provide. It is rare that we run into anyone that has ever seen this film and gotten anything out of it. Most people shut if off.



17) "Should I do a patent search prior to pursuing this invention?"


You should do a search, yes, but that search should be of the marketplace, not just patents, and should encompass other similar products that have achieved commercial success in this marketplace, and why.


You WILL NOT FIND THIS INFORMATION IN THE PATENT DATABASE


Many successful inventions do not have patents.  Meanwhile, many patented inventions never make a dime, but instead cost their owners a great deal of money.  This is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of bringing an invention to market.  The importance of patents is wildly misunderstood. The nexus or joinder between patents and commercial success is extremely tenuous. More information about this popular myth can be found here.



18) "I want to know how to get a patent. Can you help me with this?"


YES. However, this section is directed mostly to helping you get a patent application FILED. Just filing alone is only one part of the process of getting a patent ISSUED. That is a separate series of steps that takes a long time. However, no one, ever, has gotten a patent ISSUED without first having some type of patent application FILED. 


Thus, the first step in how to get a patent is to FILE. And you can file more than once, and you can learn from your mistakes. Its difficult, but the patent process is worth knowing.

Crowdfunding and Inventions, some myths/canards

Crowdfunding: a widely misunderstood topic

An extremely good way to understand Crowdfunding is to look at campaigns, both successful and failed. There are lots of example of both. Look at lots and lots of historical data, empirical data, all kinds of data.


BUT:  that data may be MISLEADING.  It is important to be certain of interpreting the data properly. Below are some uncomfortable, unpleasant truths about CrowdFunding.


REVIEWING CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGNS BY OTHERS, STUDYING, DOING ONE’S HOMEWORK

1) This is excellent for getting an idea of why other campaigns failed.  A lot of very useful information there, accurate reliable information. Much less likely to be subject to mis-interpretation.


2) However, such reviews are not as effective as one thinks for getting an idea of why other campaigns succeeded. That is a very different question, and some of the campaigns that appear to have met their goal, in fact did not meet their goal. Their campaigns actually stunk. However, some participants “fake” success by channeling their own money through straw-donors.



3) How many of the campaigns that succeeded, still never actually delivered a working, usable product? There is no easy to look this up.  But it’s a hugely important, critical statistic that gets totally overlooked


In other words, just because they got their "ask" (goal)?  That means the campaign “succeeded”?  NO, NOT AT ALL!  NO!


4) The crowdfunding campaigns we can see are not the end of the story.   How many campaigns never launched at all?  Because during the “seeding” process (see below), the people realized that their product did not have sufficient market potential to move the needle. Nobody wants it!  


Researching expired or pending crowdfunding campaigns does not show how many people were saved from embarrassment by proper pre-launch seeding and polling. 


Quite wisely, many of the most astute observers never launched at all! Yet, searches of existing crowdfunding campaigns will not find these examples of excellent, intelligent crowdfunding planning.  But this (catching mistakes early, identifying and <painfully> facing down weak ideas early) is perhaps the most important single lesson of crowdfunding!


5) A big misunderstanding of Crowdfunding is what people offer in return for donations, the specific “swag”, etc.  Lets say someone is making a new style of bicycle motor, and they want to crowdfund it.  That inventor “thinks” they must offer a finished motor, ready-to-install, on the bicycle, in order to attract Crowdfunding donors.  


This is so mistaken, so wrong in so many ways, on so many levels. This misunderstanding greatly increases their chance of failure, and also leads to having angry donors flaming them on the Internet.


6) 90% of donors must come from entities one has not met personally, and must be totally outside one's existing circle of acquaintances. Enticing and inducing this audience of unknowns requires skillful planning and a significant amount of painstaking effort.


There is a lot to this, and a lot of myths/canards about this.  To heck with your 10%, you have to make yourself attractive to that 90%!


7) It is a good idea to “seed” one's potential crowd for at least 3-4 months prior to launch, and potentially longer than that. And “seeding” costs money. And the seeding also costs time and effort and careful, painstaking research and an awareness of that specific market's thresholds and interests.  


8) You must be careful what you ask for, very few campaigns exceed $25K in donations. Some do, yes, but very few. If you need more than that, crowdfunding may not work well for you.  


Here is a real problem:  most small businesses need more than $25K.  And these people read about someone raising >=$100K (e.g. potato salad guy), and thus discount this well-established fact based on a false extrapolation from a very rare situation to their own much less rare situation. IOW, these >=$100K campaigns are statistical outliers.

 

I also try to get my clients to please watch the YouTube videos of 1) Clay Hebert  2) Danae Ringlemann 3) Eli Regolado. Theses cut through a lot of the myths. They are free, and helpful, a good Crowdfunding education.


Yes these persons are selling something (professional seeding and CF management).  But what they are selling needs to be done, either you do it or your hire someone.  But without proper seeding, a CF campaign will fail.  Repeat.  Will.  Fail.

 

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Listen or Download (audio player self-contained)

The first file (2 min 52 seconds) discusses depth of disclosure, and why blowing this off will greatly harm the chances of getting a patent Issued.


The second file (3 min 1 second) discusses the importance of getting an invention to an MVP-stage (Minimum Viable Product) as quickly as possible. Inventors that cannot or will not do this, prior to seeking capital, are much more likely to fail. No one wants to fund a non-finished invention.


The third file (2 min 33 seconds) discusses the problems with inventing to an industry that one has not participated in previously. These inventors also have a much higher chance of failure.


The fourth file (2 min 45 seconds) discusses an important topic: the myths, canards, misunderstandings, and outright fraud surrounding patent searches. 

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incubators, accelerators, and economic development: read and heed!

The typical metrics are often WRONG

Don't go by the traditional metrics. These are often  wrong, and do not properly reflect the true authentic benefits of an incubator or accelerator.


We will be adding to this section later, but just want to note how typical business metrics are misleading and inaccurate, not an indicator of success or advancement. One example is Theranos, who has 126 Issued Patents. Equally important to what false-metrics incubators do track, are the important data-metrics (often easily available) that they don't track.


We will be adding more to this section later.

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when to file for patent, when to re-think

Additional Information

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Articles – Good topics for articles include anything related to your company – recent changes to operations, the latest company softball game – or the industry you’re in. General business trends (think national and even international) are great article fodder, too.


Mission statements – You can tell a lot about a company by its mission statement. Don’t have one? Now might be a good time to create one and post it here. A good mission statement tells you what drives a company to do what it does.


Company policies – Are there company policies that are particularly important to your business? Perhaps your unlimited paternity/maternity leave policy has endeared you to employees across the company. This is a good place to talk about that.


Executive profiles – A company is only as strong as its executive leadership. This is a good place to show off who’s occupying the corner offices. Write a nice bio about each executive that includes what they do, how long they’ve been at it, and what got them to where they are.

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single biggest inventor-mistake: not knowing when to fold

This problem exceeds all others, by a Long Way

This section is Titled "Truth About Patents" for several reasons. The main reason is that patents are so widely misunderstood. Many patented inventions never make a dime. Meanwhile, many unpatented inventions make a great deal of money. Do not equate patents with commercial success!


Next, when the marketplace has sent you a clear message, you need to listen! If the world wants your invention, they will tell you! More importantly, if the invention is not selling, not scaling, not penetrating the marketplace, inventors need to heed this message!


Know when to fold. Know when to admit you have made a mistake, and this invention does not have legs, is not sellable. Its nothing to be ashamed of. 


The real shame is when inventors insist on staying "all in", and spending their way into bankruptcy or at least major financial difficulties. At this law firm, we see this problem more than all other problems combined.