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A solid future – Investing in Youth

One of the greatest opportunities came my way earlier this year. I received a call from Jimmy Bollman with the Francis Tuttle Vo-Tech here in Oklahoma City. Mr. Bollman asked if I would be interested in mentoring and assisting some of his technical student is obtaining patents for their semester projects, with Mr. Bollman willing to pay the fees for the patent applications out of his own personal funds. ( I tried to keep the costs at a minimum, but he paid them). At first, I was rather skeptical that these young teenagers could possibly have any ideas worthy of a patent. Oh, my goodness – was I in for a treat.

I spoke to several three member groups of students about their ideas, which were class projects that Mr. Bollman had them develop for his class. I discovered remarkable insight, remarkable talent and remarkable vision. An old geezer like me was absolutely delighted that these young minds were so progressive and visionary.

We ended up doing three patent applications, a trademark, a copyright and left several other ideas in a position for further development. These youngsters taught me as much as I taught them. Wow! … And I almost lost out because of a preconceived notion that the next good idea couldn’t possible come from someone their age and without further education.

My thoughts about mentoring youth have severely changed, as has my hope and confidence in the future. These kids are brilliant and under the right educational guidance (Jimmy Bollman) amazing things lie in store for us. Hope for the future is re-established and I am so excited that I have the opportunity to work with these student for a whole calendar year next year. I believe that other vocational schools should follow suit and I hope that they would see the benefit of these programs to a point where dedicated instructors were not having to sacrifice their own funds to make patents and other protection of brilliant ideas possible. The cost to return is nominal and the benefits to the students is the ability to change the world. The schools might even take a royalty interest in the revenue from these patents to recover their costs and expenses.

The future is solid and the time spent helping our youth along the pathway of development of creative thought is well worth it. Thanks kids, for teaching an old dog some new tricks!

Randy Homburg

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Lost Rights – Patentlawman Today

I had a prospective client visit with me about an idea he had earlier last week. Our conversation was going well until he let me know that he had been selling his product that he thought he might patent since last Spring – not this last spring, but LAST last spring. He had been selling his product for about 14 months and told me “…things are going so well I think I’ll get a patent on this product before its too late.” He had sold over 2500 units by this time and was hoping to sell a great deal more.

That is when I told him about the law on patents. You see, there is this little trap out there that affects more people than one would think. It involves statutory bars against getting a patent on your idea after a certain period of time and due to certain events either committed by an inventor or someone else on the inventor’s behalf. These can and will result in a loss of rights to patent protection, and unfortunately involve procrastination for the most part. He could still sell his products, but so could anyone else.

Under 35 USC Section 102, a person is statutorily barred if: (1) they use or sell their product for more than a year before applying for a patent here or in a foreign country; (2) they publicly publish their idea more than a year before applying for a patent here or in a foreign country; (3) the invention was known or used by others in this country; or (4) they apply for a foreign patent more than one year before seeking application in this or another country. There’s a lot more in that statute, but these are four common bars involved in that statute.

My client told me his prototype “Guru” told him that getting it made and sold was more important than getting it protected. “Guru” forgot to mention statutory bars. I was later told that “guru” also told him to lie to his patent attorney and just not tell him about the prior sales, but my prospective client wasn’t will to lie to me.

Patent practitioners are well aware of the statutes that affect inventions and patents, trademarks certain other relevant statutes that affect their profession. There are quick and effective ways to preserve your rights to make, use and sell your idea with at least patent pending protection, with some being quite reasonable for at least a manner of preserving your rights to future patent protection and avoiding statutory bars. Avoid procrastination and seek good sound advise from an expert.

It is very easy to get burned out there and sometimes its by your own matches.

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Lost Rights

I had a prospective client visit with me about an idea he had earlier last week. Our conversation was going well until he let me know that he had been selling his product that he thought he might patent since last Spring – not this last spring, but LAST last spring. He had been selling his product for about 14 months and told me “…things are going so well I think I’ll get a patent on this product before its too late.” He had sold over 2500 units by this time and was hoping to sell a great deal more.

That is when I told him about the law on patents. You see, there is this little trap out there that affects more people than one would think. It involves statutory bars against getting a patent on your idea after a certain period of time and due to certain events either committed by an inventor or someone else on the inventor’s behalf. These can and will result in a loss of rights to patent protection, and unfortunately involve procrastination for the most part. He could still sell his products, but so could anyone else.

Under 35 USC Section 102, a person is statutorily barred if: (1) they use or sell their product for more than a year before applying for a patent here or in a foreign country; (2) they publicly publish their idea more than a year before applying for a patent here or in a foreign country; (3) the invention was known or used by others in this country; or (4) they apply for a foreign patent more than one year before seeking application in this or another country. There’s a lot more in that statute, but these are four common bars involved in that statute.

My client told me his prototype “Guru” told him that getting it made and sold was more important than getting it protected. “Guru” forgot to mention statutory bars. I was later told that “guru” also told him to lie to his patent attorney and just not tell him about the prior sales, but my prospective client wasn’t will to lie to me.

Patent practitioners are well aware of the statutes that affect inventions and patents, trademarks certain other relevant statutes that affect their profession. There are quick and effective ways to preserve your rights to make, use and sell your idea with at least patent pending protection, with some being quite reasonable for at least a manner of preserving your rights to future patent protection and avoiding statutory bars. Avoid procrastination and seek good sound advise from an expert.

It is very easy to get burned out there and sometimes its by your own matches.

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Tug of war; who owns the invention? patentlawman today

Many inventors work for someone else. As part of their job, and especially when you sign an employee agreement, anything you invent is generally owned by your employer. That part of the employee agreement is that part that most of us don’t read – especially when we are glad we found a good job. While your employer may have a claim to your work product conceived on the job, does that necessarily mean that they own your mind or your patentable products entirely.

A Federal Circuit Court ruled that not everything you conceive belongs to your employer. Applera Corp. Applied Biosystems Group v. Illumina, Inc. 2009-1260 210 WL 1169936 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 25, 2010) That case held that even though a scientist signed an employee invention agreement that required that inventions he created during his employment belonged to his employer, since he was able to prove that his invention was developed outside his work on his own time and on his own equipment, his employer was not the owner of his invention. The inventor invented a method for sequencing DNS on his own time, on his own computer and without the assistance of any of his company’s trade sequence. Thus, the Court ruled there was no automatic assignment.

If you work for a company, you don’t necessarily turn over your brain and all your creativity for the sake of your employer. However, you are cautioned that if you are going to claim rights to an invention, you must do so by making sure that you use no company resources to develop your invention, and certainly discouraged from working on your own invention on company time. Many employers are not so strict that they don’t allow certain latitudes for working on your own projects outside your working hours. You are strongly advised to ensure that working on an independent project is done with approval and to obtain your supervisor’s of department head’s written authorization to do so and also not to disclose the precise nature of your development project. The disclosure alone may very well give rights to your employer.

By no means am I encouraging you to steal anything. However, I am encouraging you not to allow anyone to steal from you. I had an old boss tell me one time (pardon the crude language – it was a welding shop) , “We own your butt (%@*&$) for eight hours a day, but don ‘t let anyone ever think they own your brain.” Thank you Lewis for the quote, by the way.

Don’t let your invention be the subject of an intellectual property “tug-of-war”. See the picture of the rope? That’s your invention. There should only be one set of hands on that rope. It is much easier to handle that way and far more useful.

Holler at me if you need assistance with your domestic patent and trademark issues. You can always find me at www.patentlawman.com or e-mail me at rhomburg@cox.net. Happy new year!

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Patentlawman Today – New Horizons

In just 16 days, I am expanding my horizons.

I am back to full time self-employment and expanding my travel territory to southern Oklahoma and north Texas in response to some of my clientele in these regions.  Nervous – yes, anxious – absolutely.  I continue my national practice in domestic patents and trademarks, but plan to bring my flat rate and affordable practice to my home region with a singular goal in mind – to save my clients up to 80% on domestic patent applications using a flat rate domestic patent application published fee schedule. I also intend on saving my limited local client base the cost and travel time of having to bring their ideas to the patent attorney offices, instead traveling to those within my new expanded region.

I have been told that several manufacturers in my region are paying upwards of $30,000 to $50,000 for a domestic patent application and several thousands for a trademark application.  That is mainly due to the large firm overhead which is based upon the cost of operation of a large firm. For those big clients, paying this kind of money for a patent application is part of the cost of doing business. For the smaller manufacturer, it can be an impediment or act as a barrier to affordable protection.  For a small inventor, it is devastating.

I have contacted several manufacturers across north Texas and southern Oklahoma where I grew up to offer an affordable alternative to the big city prices. I’m definitely not the answer for everyone’s domestic IP needs, but I may be a opportunity for small business and manufacturers, as well as individual inventors, to obtain affordable protection.  I remain available by contact for the rest of the country, having clients from Alaska to Florida, and from California to New York.  The same flat rate fees apply there, too, except for the travel offer. The internet, e-mail and phone work just fine for my distant clients. I can even assist and train you file your own trademark applications and renewal documents if you really want to save some money if you can’t get them filed yourself (see previous post – Do it yourself trademarks).

My web site has my published fees listed, and they are valid through the entire new year, 2016.  Here’s to you 2016 and all the new friends and clients I hope to meet in this new year. My contact information is on my web site below. When you call, ask for Randy – that’s me, and I answer my own phone most of the time, unless I’m gazing across the great Smoky Mountains on one of my rare vacation opportunities.

www.patentlawman.com

#patents #trademarks #affordable

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Patentlawman Today – HOPE

Its the end of the year already.  During this busy time, it is very difficult to sit down and focus on our accomplishments, much less plan for next year.  Our businesses, families and projects seem to get placed on hold or put off until “next year”.  I’m certainly guilty.

My legal practice spends a lot of time dealing with HOPE.  My clients HOPE for a lot of things – they HOPE somebody hasn’t already patented their idea, they HOPE they can afford to get a patent, they HOPE they can find a market for their product, they HOPE that folks find their product irresistible, and finally, they HOPE for commercial success.  I do, too.  I HOPE they clear a search, I HOPE they hire me, and I truly HOPE they find commercial success and speak highly of the services I provide and tell all their friends about me (at least the good stuff).

This time of year is about HOPE for all of us.  I don’t care what your belief base is – a belief in Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanza or Santa Claus or nothing at all.  We have to believe in something.  It is especially true in the patent world. If you don’t believe you have a shot at commercial success, then don’t do it.  It is time consuming and it is expensive.  HOPE can be bolstered if the proper steps are taken.  I have a few more thought suggestions for those interested in patents – COURAGE, FAITH, BOLDNESS, STRATEGY, PLANNING, HUMILITY and GRACE. Don’t expect commercial success because you deserve it, but don’t be afraid to meet the challenge in the commercial arena. Having good fortune is very nice, but hard work is what really works.

There is a good movie coming out this Christmas, from what I hear. Its called “JOY’ and has a couple of my favorite actors in it. If you are thinking about patenting your idea, I have a few of planning tips for you.

Relax and go see a good movie this holiday season (see above). Plan steps to take your idea to market in 2016.  Shop around for the most affordable patent rates you can find for your protection in 2016, either locally or around the US, since your patent professionals are licensed nationally.  Most important – have HOPE.   If you don’t have HOPE, don’t bother with exploiting your idea.

This is a really good time of year for reflection about next year.  I HOPE to continue meeting the nice people who are lured to this site by my silly posts. I HOPE they have been helpful, and if not, at least spark some reality and insight into the not-so-complex world of Intellectual Property.  (I also HOPE  I can find the place in this picture!)

I HOPE you enjoy this holiday season with those you love.

As always – www.patentlawman.com

#Merry Christmas #patents #hope

hats-off

Homburg “Hats Off”

My good friend and client Jose Ucero is in the business of backup power generators.  Recently, his U.S. Patent No. 8,138,430 issued, so congratulations is in order. His patent deals with a power strip that connects to an outdoor portable electric generator and fits in the bottom of a window sill, allowing for the window to close sealing it from the outdoor environment, with the multiple outlet power strip secured within the window frame for connection of multiple plugs to keep the important parts of the home operational during the outage.  It also has a sensor to monitor the intrusion of any harmful CO which is rendered by the generator to make sure it doesn’t come into the house.

Once again, Congratulations to Jose for a successful patent application and issuance!

  #patents

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Patents & Prototypes

Probably the most frequent question I get asked is, “Can I obtain a patent without having a prototype?” A very simple answer is “Yes”. 
Many of my prospective inventors have an idea that is in a development phase. They haven’t quite arrived at a finished product or something that is in a marketable or saleable state. My tendency is to allow the inventor to chose the right time to file for protection. There are several alternatives in a responsible progressive advancement of concept to product, but protecting an invention is a very important part of that process. And, Like I’ve said in the past, it never hurts a thing to start with a very thorough search to make sure there is room in the patented art for your invention. Searches do two things – first they tell you what is out there already in the form of prior art which you will need to avoid for patent filing purposes and to avoid infringement and second, they tell you where you need to go.
Start with a search. After that, work on a prototype if you wish, but keep your invention to yourself. The rules are now first to file, not first to invent.(See previous blog). Don’t tell anyone what you are doing. If you need help from a second party, you might try protection under a provisional application – they are cheap and quick (or should be). If you have a limited budget, try to split what capital you have between your product development and your protection. If you fail to protect your idea and someone else beats you to a filing date ( and you have no confidentiality with that second party) everything you do might be at risk. 
Its a hard decision to make, but you should certainly discuss your options with a patent professional at some point. Shop around for a patent professional within your price range, or at least one that is the most affordable for your needs, just as you would with your prototype assistance.
As I have said in the past, you can always get in touch with me for any questions you may have. It also wouldn’t hurts to check out some of the old blogs if you have any questions about the content of this posting. I left a card with Gastown Jack, up above, and he hasn’t called me yet. He was still working on his prototype last time we visited.

#prototype #patent

hats-off

Homburg “Hats Off”

Congrats to my good friend and client “Bear” Runyon on the grant of his patent, U.S. Patent No. 8347440, on a set of ramps for a trailer that convert to side panels, so you never have to lose your trailer ramps.  They fold into the side of the trailer and then deploy by folding out and then pivoting downward, sliding to width to load your equipment.  He is not new to the patent world, having had a previously granted livestock feeding system.  “Bear” also used to be a powerful fullback for UCO back in his heyday, and now operates 3C Cattle Feeders out of Mill Creek, Oklahoma. I am sure he would be willing to discuss a purchase of one of his fine products and they are in production and for sale. Keep ’em coming, Bear!    #patents

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