A Cautionary Tale on Inventing from the BBC

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DrClaude
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Penny wise, pound foolish. He wanted so much not to lose any of what his invention was worth that he ended up with nothing.

This is also reminiscent of all the "independent researchers" that want to make you sing sign non-disclosure agreement before reading their genius, GUT work, afraid that their ideas will get stolen. It must be stressful to go through life so distrustful, almost paranoid.
 
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I had a spell where I did this. I worked for a company and was reluctant to share my invention ideas as I thought I might use them to "start a business" which I was too afraid to start. Eventually, I got into the notion of sharing my ideas and found it was fun to interact with fellow inventors during patent reviews.
 
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  • #4
anorlunda
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I think it is a common, nearly universal, fault that we tend to overestimate the value of our ideas. Most ideas need considerable work to make them useful, practical, and valuable. But there are exceptions, and the fabled stories of those exceptions that fill the minds of most inventors.

There are also stories of inventors being foolish or being cheated out of their inventions. That too drives paranoia.

The cure to paranoia is to hire an experienced patent attorney. I suspect that money and mistrust are the obstacles to that. With my patents, I worked for big companies with patent attorneys on staff, so the process was easy. The US attorney told me that public disclosure triggers a one-year timer to make a patent application. That year gives you six months or so to drum up interest, before you decide to invest in a patent application.

In cases where you decide against filing an application, my former employer (ASEA in Sweden) published disclosures in tiny little newspapers in Lapland with circulation 5. The purpose was to poison the water for anyone else seeking to patent that thing, but hopefully not inspire competitors by reading your disclosure. In my experience, the ratio was about 10:1 for possibly patentable ideas, to those we actually wrote patent applications for.

There is also a practice of non-public disclosures. You write up the idea and show it to two colleagues who date and sign it. That establishes the date in case of future disputes about who was first.

I like the Euro patent rules better than the American ones. In Europe, you have to continue paying fees every year to maintain a patent once granted. There is no fee like that in America. The fee encourages inventors to either exploit the idea, or to abandon it and make it public. I think it is evil to gain a patent, then just sit on it until expiration. Drug companies do that all the time.

The whole justification for having a patent system is to motivate inventors to publicly disclose the ideas. The reward is a exclusive right to exploit it for a limited period of time. Inventions carried to the grave benefit no one.
 
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  • #5
russ_watters
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This is a cautionary tale on inventing and the desire for the inventor to control his invention to the point where investors wouldn't get on board because they didn't know how it worked.
While I haven't looked into it much yet (I will), my skeptical bias pushes me away from that interpretation. From what I've seen:

1. Such extreme secrecy is more often than not a way to hide a hoax/fraud.

2. Such actions typically do not dissuade inventors anywhere near as much as they should.
 
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While I haven't looked into it much yet (I will), my skeptical bias pushes me away from that interpretation. From what I've seen:

1. Such extreme secrecy is more often than not a way to hide a hoax/fraud.

2. Such actions typically do not dissuade inventors anywhere near as much as they should.
Yes, I would think that too except the BBC did an excellent job of working with it. They said there are now paints called intumescent paints that were impervious to fire. The experts they interviewed believed it was real. They also understood the issues of a brilliant amateur chemist who just doesn't understand how business works. He was absolutely paranoid about things.

The investors they approached couldn't come to grips with this reluctant inventor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intumescent
 
  • #7
OmCheeto
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Fun story!

Though, I hope my invention story doesn't end up this way......... :oldcry:

ps. Idiot!
 
  • #8
JBA
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I like the Euro patent rules better than the American ones. In Europe, you have to continue paying fees every year to maintain a patent once granted. There is no fee like that in America. The fee encourages inventors to either exploit the idea, or to abandon it and make it public. I think it is evil to gain a patent, then just sit on it until expiration. Drug companies do that all the time.
Anorlunda, you are misinformed regarding the matter of maintenance fees for US patents. See the below USPTO document for those fees and all other of their fees associated with US patents. Just as an informational note, the "Micro Entity" rate is for any patent holder with a gross annual income less than $184,116.

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule#Patent Maintenance Fee
 
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  • #9
OmCheeto
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...$184,116.
...
Not to go all tangential, but that amount isn't too far off from what I researched that a full set of international patents will cost someone, up front, to protect their intellectual property.

How the hell does someone on a hairdressers salary come up with $100,000?

[edit] asking for a friend [/edit]
 
  • #10
anorlunda
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Anorlunda, you are misinformed regarding the matter of maintenance fees for US patents. See the below USPTO document for those fees and all other of their fees associated with US patents. Just as an informational note, the "Micro Entity" rate is for any patent holder with a gross annual income less than $184,116.
OK, I stand corrected. My info was wrong or out-of-date. I'm glad the US has it for the same reason the Europeans have it.
 
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  • #13
jrmichler
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The US Patent Office has something specifically for people with ideas. It's a provisional patent application. Once filed, it locks in the patent application date, and the inventor is allowed to say that their invention is "patent pending". No lawyer is needed, the application does not need to be written in obscure patent techno legalese. The USPTO does not do anything with it, just files it. It provides the inventor one year to decide if they want to file a real patent application.

Since the US, like the rest of the world, uses "first to file" instead of "first to invent", there is good reason to get a patent application in as soon as possible. But it is not always known if they really want a patent. Many companies will file a provisional application for a new idea, then they have one year to develop the idea and decide if they really want a patent.

And then there is licensing. I once was building and selling a machine that I had invented, while paying royalties to my ex-employer to use my own patent. It was a good deal for both of us.
 
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  • #14
coolul007
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The real tales have to do with the inventor of the ratchet drive and the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. Both multi-million dollar patents were stolen. Then were tied up in courts for decades and the lawyers got rich.
 
  • #15
Baluncore
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The inventor has one year from provisional patent to interest a distributor, who will order manufacture of initial units. The selected distributor agrees to pay for the full patent to protect their manufacturer tooling-up costs from others entering the market. The distributor agrees to return the full patents to the inventor if the distributor fails to meet a specified minimum production.

An inventor always has an invention that will change the world, it's worth a million dollars and it is a secret. They always overvalue the invention. The provisional idea is worth 1% of RRP. A working prototype takes that to 2%.

So take out that provisional, you only have one year so try to find six distributors at the same time, but only sign with one. If you cannot find a distributor within one year then openly publish your provisional in a readable form. That publication with your provisional and photos of prototypes will prevent others patenting your claim. When an inventor files a full patent it costs $10k and he becomes a target that will be broken by any big corporation.

Think of a full patent specification as an insurance policy taken out by a distributor to protect them from others entering the marketplace before them.
 
  • #16
jrmichler
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One of my patents has been infringed upon twice. In both cases, our patent attorney wrote a cease and desist letter to the infringing company. In both cases, they stopped immediately. The patent attorney told us that a typical infringement lawsuit would cost a million dollars. In an established company, patents are used to stop competitors.

For individuals and new companies, patents are used to get financing. This company is an example: https://www.rocketheater.com/. They needed a patent, or at least a patent application, to get financing. They came up with a grate design that was original enough to justify a provisional patent application, and that did the job. That was over a year ago, I see that they have since followed up with a regular patent application, publication number 20180142886.

And then you have the dreamers. Check out Doug Pelmear's electromagnetic engine patents: 9,915,209, 8,991,356, and 8,616,175. It's somewhere between impractical to impossible to build, and cannot possibly develop useful work, but he used the patents to get money. Here is one discussion about him: https://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/news-about-doug-pelmears-110-mpg-mustang-19694.html.
 
  • #17
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Um, doesn't that flout the Big Maker european model whose engine shut down several cylinders while idling ??
 

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