We have touched on some of these things before. Now we can look at your new invention with a little depth.

You may think I sound like a screaming parent telling you what to do. So be it. You don’t have to listen, but don’t blame me if you lose your invention.

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Here are some important steps to think about and use after you get your brilliant flash of genius and before your new invention submission:

1. As we said before, when you first get the idea - start documenting your work on your new invention - and DOCUMENT EVERY STEP. Get yourself a hard-bound journal so that your writings and drawings about your new invention be shown in order of date done and cannot be shifted. This is important because you may have to show the chronological development of the idea as proof of first invention.

Write down everything. Do your new invention drawings in the journal. Date and sign every page. Get people you can trust, show them the info and have them sign and date the journal pages to show that they saw the new invention.

Anyone who works on a new invention prototype should also sign your log on the date(s) they talked to you and worked on your new invention. I have an example of why this is very important, but we’ll get to that later. Just pleeeeeeeze put every thing in writing.

2. When you can get people to do it, have anyone you expose your new invention to sign a NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT (NDA). Most people you hire to, say do a new invention prototype, or your witnesses should be no problem - but financiers, and business development companies can sometimes be downright balky on this point. Their rationale is that they may already have something similar in the works that the NDA would stop them from going on with their existing project.

This is somewhat logical, at least to them - and a reputable firm is interested in protecting their reputation - so it is a good bet that they would not run off with your baby.

This is also not too much of a problem in reality, because by the time you are talking to someone like that your new invention should be in “patent pending” status.

Just try to get an NDA whenever you can before showing anyone anything in the early stages. Here is a

Sample Non-disclosure Agreement for new invention

3. Really think hard about contacting and hiring a Registered Patent Attorney to handle getting your new invention patent application going. The Patent Office is a world by itself, with it’s own language and way of doing things. If you don’t know the rules, they will kick you out of the game. It is better to have a pro on your side.

Things will go much smoother, and you have a better chance of completing the process successfully for a price range of $3,000 to $5,000 for a simple patent. (Software, plants, chemical, and other similar type new invention patents will cost more - because of their complexity)

4. This leads to the “invention firms,” “idea marketing firms,” and other such companies that advertise to “help” you get your new invention patented, or marketed, or sold, or find a company to use your new invention and make you rich. Three words - BE VERY CAREFUL.

In all the time I was working with inventors and helping them get invention patents, I never ran across a firm that was any help whatsoever. That does not mean that they do not exist - I just don’t know of any.

The ones I was aware of would charge anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 - and what you got was a cursory patent search (sometimes), a slick brochure (that you could get yourself for about $400), and a list of manufacturers that you could find yourself with a few hours in the local library or online. Some of them will get you a patent - but it will only be a design patent which does not grant you the monopoly rights that you get with a utility patent. Most of these companies that I saw were just not worth the money - better spent on an attorney.


Sidebar: For those of you who might be thinking - “hey, this guy was an attorney so of course he going to push the idea of us hiring an attorney” - I have no great love of the legal system in this country. I agree that there are a lot of sharks in the legal waters - and the system seems to favor nuance over justice. However, in this particular instance - getting a patent - having an attorney really will get you through the system faster and better.


5. Some people approach the idea of licensing their idea - either to raise money to get the new invention patent, or to have someone else do all the work in getting the patent so they can sit back and just collect money. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly it doesn’t.

This is another area that you have to be careful with. Here are two of my experiences that show what can happen. No names - just instances to protect confidences and circumstances.

Example 1: Two inventors came to me with a new invention that had been taken to another attorney - which did not work out. Why, we didn’t get into. All I know is that one of the inventors ... well he basically thought that all attorneys should be ... let’s just say that he didn’t like attorneys. With my patent attorney we were able to get not one, but two patents for these folks - with satisfaction.

Before coming to me the inventors had formed a corporation, had a working product, and a license with thankfully a reputable company. Part of the license agreement was to of course finish the patent in the US - but also file and get patents in 25 countries around the world. This was accomplished. In fact I still administer the annuity payments for all of the patents to this date. The license has been successful and the company that licensed the new invention has been forthright and made royalty payments on time.

The only thing that I would have attempted to change - had I had the ability when the license was negotiated was to have the royalty be a percentage of the gross sales. The inventors accepted a “so many cents per item sold” as royalty - which means they are getting 1989 money for payments in 2005. They seem to be doing well and are not upset with what they get - but it could have been more. SUCCESSFUL.

Example 2: This inventor came to me in almost the same fashion. He had not been to another attorney - but he had someone interested in licensing his new invention. In this case, the licensing company - once they had the details about the new invention - filed their own patent application!

This makes for complications. We had to go through what is called an “interference proceeding” in the patent office. That took hiring a special Washington D.C. firm and over $100,000. We won. They appealed.

I had to take the case which was before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court just below the Supreme Court. We won again.

The outcome was no deal with the crook anymore (happy day), the inventor was out over $150,000, and had no way to continue to develop his idea. By the time all the legal stuff was over the industry standards had passed him by. NOT SUCCESSFUL.

These examples are given to show the dangers inherent in at least the money-raising part of getting a patent on a new invention.


Sidebar: If the inventor in the second example had kept a hard-bound journal, the cost of litigation could have been lower, at least. As it was, we had to take depositions from people in four different states, create a paper trail with signed declarations, and even try hypnosis to try and find where the inventor had put his first prototype. Hypnosis didn’t work this time.