# Approaching a company or career engineer with an idea

• Engineering
This will probably sound like paranoia and silly but , what would be the best way to test an idea (simulate it virtually and model on a software or otherwise) in the case where I can't do it myself because I don't have the software and the capabilities to do so.
I am thinking either getting in touch with an engineer that is well versed in such jobs or some academic help from a local university.

The thing is this, I have been reading all kinds of online sites and there are different advices out there, I am a bit skeptical because in the 0.01% where it can turn out the idea might actually be good and workable someone might be faster than me and get the patent or any other document needed to secure the idea.
But filling a patent for an idea that I have not fully tested and built a functioning prototype also seems like a waste of money and time, are there any advice or ideas you can throw me on how to approach this?

thanks

## Answers and Replies

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berkeman
Mentor
You could consider hiring a reputable consulting engineer to do the initial work for you under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). It will cost you probably around $1000 for the initial work, but it may be the best way to proceed unless you are willing to learn the simulation tools yourself. The Nolo Press website has many good resources for intellectual property type situations. You might check out their book "Patent it Yourself" and the associated legal advice about patents and intellectual property: https://www.nolo.com/ CrysPhys Education Advisor This will probably sound like paranoia and silly but , what would be the best way to test an idea (simulate it virtually and model on a software or otherwise) in the case where I can't do it myself because I don't have the software and the capabilities to do so. I am thinking either getting in touch with an engineer that is well versed in such jobs or some academic help from a local university. The thing is this, I have been reading all kinds of online sites and there are different advices out there, I am a bit skeptical because in the 0.01% where it can turn out the idea might actually be good and workable someone might be faster than me and get the patent or any other document needed to secure the idea. But filling a patent for an idea that I have not fully tested and built a functioning prototype also seems like a waste of money and time, are there any advice or ideas you can throw me on how to approach this? thanks If you think that you have a potentially valuable invention, the first thing you should do is consult a patent attorney. An invention does not need to be fully tested, and a functioning prototype does not need to be constructed, in order to obtain a patent. The patent attorney can go over the requirements and assess whether it's advisable for you to proceed with a patent application. He can also draw up a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) and a contract for work for an outside consultant [regardless of whether you proceed with the patent application first or wait until later]. You need to proceed carefully here, there are many pitfalls; not something a newbie should attempt on the basis of DIY books. Note: A patent agent can assess and file a patent application for you; but since you will need other legal advice and documents as well, I recommend that you seek a patent attorney in this instance. Last edited: Klystron, russ_watters and berkeman Well I agree , I have been to my local patent administration and when I talked to the consultants there I understood that its a risky business where large players are involved with lots of money, in order to get everything right I would need someone who knows their stuff and has done it before aka what you said a patent agent. so as for the patent attorney , do I also need to sign an NDA with him too just in case? I don't live in the US and organizations are far more corrupted here so I take everything with a grain of salt. The reason that I wanted to simulate the thing first hand is because I thought maybe I can get away with less money as there is a far higher chance the thing will not meet all its expectations than the chance that it will fly off the charts 100% in the first round so, maybe I could get myself a lawyer and sign an NDA with the company or person (most likely a person from a university) doing the simulating ? I also hear at the patent office that for a patent one does not need a working prototype just the physics and theory needs to be in line which it is in my case. I was just a bit worried that I could end up spending lots of cash and have no result. I summed up that the patent with an attorney and the filling process altogether could cost me around 2500usd or bit more. CrysPhys Education Advisor Well I agree , I have been to my local patent administration and when I talked to the consultants there I understood that its a risky business where large players are involved with lots of money, in order to get everything right I would need someone who knows their stuff and has done it before aka what you said a patent agent. so as for the patent attorney , do I also need to sign an NDA with him too just in case? I don't live in the US and organizations are far more corrupted here so I take everything with a grain of salt. The reason that I wanted to simulate the thing first hand is because I thought maybe I can get away with less money as there is a far higher chance the thing will not meet all its expectations than the chance that it will fly off the charts 100% in the first round so, maybe I could get myself a lawyer and sign an NDA with the company or person (most likely a person from a university) doing the simulating ? I also hear at the patent office that for a patent one does not need a working prototype just the physics and theory needs to be in line which it is in my case. I was just a bit worried that I could end up spending lots of cash and have no result. I summed up that the patent with an attorney and the filling process altogether could cost me around 2500usd or bit more. Ah, it would have been helpful if you had identified yourself as non-US in the first place. (1) In the US, "patent attorney" and "patent agent" are different categories of patent practitioners; these terms are not synonymous (not AKA). These terms are also not universal; different terms apply in other countries, and what each category of practitioner can and cannot do also varies. So you need to find a practitioner applicable to your own specific instance. (2) In the US at least, you do not need an NDA when you hire a patent practitioner (patent attorney or patent agent). They are bound by a code of conduct and can be subject to penalties (including loss of registration to practice) if they break it. Most major countries have similar codes. Of course, an unscrupulous practitioner could steal your invention. But so could an unscrupulous engineer (or other unscrupulous person) who has signed an NDA. Find out the proper practice in your own specific instance, though. (3) Your patent attorney (or appropriate practitioner in your own specific instance) needs to carefully delimit the scope of work with any outside consultant and discuss with you potential issues of co-inventorship and ownership of intellectual property rights (e.g., what happens if the consultant finds that your invention doesn't work as you proposed and comes up with a solution that makes it work; tread carefully). (4) In general, you need more than "just the physics and theory needs to be in line" to get a patent. (5) An important item: patents are country specific. You need to obtain a patent in each country in which you seek patent protection. This gets very expensive. (6) Suppose you do get one or more patents in one or more countries? Then what? What's your business plan? A patent (or any other legal document, for that matter) has value only if you have resources to enforce it; that usually entails expensive legal fees. And that's assuming the infringer (or other bad actor) is in a country with a proper legal system that allows you to enforce it. artis and marcusl marcusl Science Advisor Gold Member CrysPhys has made good points and referred to both the cost of protecting an idea and the difficulty of commercializing it. You might be interested to learn that the vast majority of US patents are allowed to lapse early because the inventor doesn't want to continue paying the periodic patent maintenance fees that the US Patent Office requires. Even IBM, the largest patentor in the world, has been allowing 50% of its patents to lapse in recent years. These statistics illustrate that the majority of patents do not generate revenue for their inventor(s) and are not worth the money spent on them. Since you indicate that you are cost sensitive, spend some time investigating how you would commercialize your invention and whether, realistically, it would make money for you, in addition to exploring its technical aspects. artis Well this is why I wanted to simulate the thing first , I need to know whether it fully works the way envisioned as the ability to commercialize it is mostly dependent on this. I assume that it is always easier to (once the thing works) file a patent and seek some large company and if they are interested you can simply sell the idea to them for manufacturing, or since this device is rather technically simple I could in theory file a patent in my own country and with a help from a few friends working in the local tech business maybe produce it myself and see how it does. Just out of curiosity , say I make the device myself , in theory can someone else in another country simple make a copy of it and sell it like it's theirs legally? Because at least the way I understood this from when I was at the patent office for anything no matter what it is as long as the patent isn't enforced in that specific country you can take the device and make your own copy, is this correct? Like for example China is known for large scale industrial copying and spying, so for example a small US company or company from another country files a patent in US or that country and say a few other countries like Germany, Italy etc but not China, can then China simply take that idea and produce it and sell it outside the countries in which this device has a legal patent application? marcusl Science Advisor Gold Member Yes, you need a patent in every country where you want protection (although it’s possible to get a single EU patent that covers multiple countries in the EU). Your invention could be legally sold, by a third party, in any country where you lack a patent. The country of that party is irrelevant. If you have a US patent, even a US company could legally sell your invention in a country where you lack a patent. A patent doesn’t actually prevent someone from stealing and marketing your idea, furthermore. Rather it gives you legal standing to sue them to cease and perhaps to collect damages in the local courts. CrysPhys Education Advisor Well this is why I wanted to simulate the thing first , I need to know whether it fully works the way envisioned as the ability to commercialize it is mostly dependent on this. I assume that it is always easier to (once the thing works) file a patent and seek some large company and if they are interested you can simply sell the idea to them for manufacturing, or since this device is rather technically simple I could in theory file a patent in my own country and with a help from a few friends working in the local tech business maybe produce it myself and see how it does. Just out of curiosity , say I make the device myself , in theory can someone else in another country simple make a copy of it and sell it like it's theirs legally? Because at least the way I understood this from when I was at the patent office for anything no matter what it is as long as the patent isn't enforced in that specific country you can take the device and make your own copy, is this correct? Like for example China is known for large scale industrial copying and spying, so for example a small US company or company from another country files a patent in US or that country and say a few other countries like Germany, Italy etc but not China, can then China simply take that idea and produce it and sell it outside the countries in which this device has a legal patent application? (1) As I mentioned earlier: (5) An important item: patents are country specific. You need to obtain a patent in each country in which you seek patent protection. This gets very expensive. (2) In your instance, you should consider this strategy: (a) Consult with an appropriate patent practitioner in your country. Have him draw up papers for an NDA and a contract for work for a consulting engineer to verify whether your proposed invention works. (b) Assuming that the results are positive, file a patent application in your home country only. (c) Most countries of significance allow you to defer filing a patent application in other countries for up to one year from the date of filing in your home country, while still maintaining the priority date of the filing in your home country. During this year, either sell your patent rights to someone else (e.g., a company or investor) or team up with a partner with deep enough pockets to finance filing patent applications in your target countries of interest. Note: A year passes quickly, so you should at least identify potential companies, investors, or partners as soon as possible, while awaiting the results of your tests. Confirm all this with the patent practitioner in your home country. Last edited: artis CrysPhys Education Advisor Yes, you need a patent in every country where you want protection (although it’s possible to get a single EU patent that covers multiple countries in the EU). <<Emphasis added.>> The European unitary patent system has not yet gone into effect. According to the European Patent Organization (EPO) website (https://www.epo.org/law-practice/unitary/unitary-patent/start.html): "The start of the new system is currently expected for the first half of 2019." Well, the first half of 2019 is just about over, and the new system has not started. Germany needs to ratify the new system; and according to a report posted recently (June 25, 2019), German ratification is still hung up in legal proceedings: https://www.bristowsupc.com/latest-news/upc-case-to-progress-up-bverfg-s-2019-case-list-an-update/ marcusl marcusl Science Advisor Gold Member Thanks for the update! Thank you guys for the suggestions so far. Well back when I spoke with the patent advisor from my local patent office , well i don't remember everything but he basically advised me to file a international patent application in any case because the sums are similar to filing a local patent , well a bit higher of course, but still the reason was this because then I have both the safety of a patent that is pending and meanwhile I can search for partners and if I find some then I can simply fill an application request in the country in consideration. At least i was told this then would be easier than simply filling a local patent and then trying to get individual patents in different countries if necessary. Another reason being that the international patent lets me to easily get also a local patent if necessary but a local only patent means I can only do things within my own country but in my country we have very few industrial plants and activity at all apart from two universities and maybe some guys like me doing their own research in their backyard garage. jrmichler Mentor Before spending money, do a patent search. You can do this yourself. It will not have any legal meaning, but you may find that somebody has already patented your idea. I have had several ideas that I had to drop after finding prior art in a patent search. If you cannot find any prior art patents, then some of what you find will be useful when writing your invention disclosure: "My idea does the same thing as Patent XXXXXX, but is better because ...". One of my patents has been infringed on twice. In both cases, a letter from our patent firm to the infringer caused them to immediately stop. In one case, they thought they had invented around our patent. They were wrong. In the other case, they thought we would not find out. They were also wrong. Our patent attorney told us that if we chose to go to court, we should expect to spend$1,000,000 USD.

You do not need to prove that something works to get a patent, only that nobody else has done it or patented it. An excellent example of an inventor getting patents for things that do not work are the US patents by Doug Pelmear. He has five patents, none of which are of any use and none of which work. But he has used those patents to get funding.

Patents are very useful, even essential, for getting funding from other people or organizations. I had an interesting discussion with a man selling wood burning stoves that he had invented. He needed a patent to get funding to expand his business. He had made improvements to an existing design, but his improvements did not change the basic design. He submitted a provisional patent application for an improved grate, and that was enough to get his funding. The act of filing a provisional patent application allows you to say that your invention is "patent pending". An example is www.rocketheater.com. They filed a US provisional patent application, then followed with a real patent application. That application has net yet been examined, but they can (and are) advertising "patent pending".

International patent laws are similar to US patent laws, but the US Patent Office web site is easier to search. I suggest starting there, then looking for international patents.

russ_watters, artis and berkeman
thanks for the advice @jrmichler , in fact I have already done patent searches both in google to find any US patents and in the European patent library which covers all EU patents and also foreign ones.
Anyway I must focus on EU laws more since I live in EU and are under their jurisdiction.
Well so far I have looked haven't found anything similar, there is a good reason for that since the thing i'm trying to do is rather rare.

CrysPhys
Education Advisor
thanks for the advice @jrmichler , in fact I have already done patent searches both in google to find any US patents and in the European patent library which covers all EU patents and also foreign ones.
Anyway I must focus on EU laws more since I live in EU and are under their jurisdiction.
Well so far I have looked haven't found anything similar, there is a good reason for that since the thing i'm trying to do is rather rare.
Note that it's not just the patent literature that needs to be searched. If your invention is disclosed in practically any public media [specific details can be confusing], your patent application can be rejected. Also, note that there are two major criteria for allowability based on prior art: novelty and nonobviousness ["nonobviousness" is the US term; "inventive step" is the European term]. The concept of novelty is something that most people readily grasp; nonobviousness is far more nuanced. You should discuss with your patent practitioner whether a professional search and patentability opinion is warranted in your own specific instance. [For example, R&D staff in a large corporation often are aware of what's going on in their field; and the corporation often decides to forgo the additional expense. But don't be surprised if the Examiner digs up unexpected references.]

Well I guess I have to take my chances with this , because all in all I got two options, either to try it out or simply forget about it, given I've spent some 5 or so years doing this in the background and I can't or haven't found any obvious similar ideas that would show up I'd guess would be wrong to forget about it completely.
I will make some calls and ask some questions about the specifics but I'd assume even if everything goes totally silent and the idea is a no-go I'm risking about 2500usd.
I know people who have lost twice that in drunken gambling.

CrysPhys
Education Advisor
Thank you guys for the suggestions so far. Well back when I spoke with the patent advisor from my local patent office , well i don't remember everything but he basically advised me to file a international patent application in any case because the sums are similar to filing a local patent , well a bit higher of course, but still the reason was this because then I have both the safety of a patent that is pending and meanwhile I can search for partners and if I find some then I can simply fill an application request in the country in consideration.
At least i was told this then would be easier than simply filling a local patent and then trying to get individual patents in different countries if necessary.
Another reason being that the international patent lets me to easily get also a local patent if necessary but a local only patent means I can only do things within my own country but in my country we have very few industrial plants and activity at all apart from two universities and maybe some guys like me doing their own research in their backyard garage.
(1) By "the patent advisor from my local patent office" I assume you mean a government staff member who works for your home country's patent office. Is that correct? At least in my dealings with staff members of the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office), I've found that the information I've received is often incorrect. However you proceed, you also need to confirm the information with a patent practitioner who represents you.

(2) When you file foreign patent applications (i.e., in countries outside your home country), you can proceed via one of two routes: (a) the Paris Convention or (b) the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) [a PCT patent application is also referred to as an international patent application]. Again, you should discuss with your patent practitioner the pluses and minuses of each approach. In your case, a particular concern is which approach will minimize the up-front costs to you, while preserving your future rights to file in target countries of interest [assuming you find financing of some sort later]. In the US, it’s far less expensive to file a US application than a PCT application, especially for individual inventors. In your home country, that may not be the case, especially if your home country receives a discount on certain PCT fees; see list of countries here: https://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/pct/en/fees/fee_reduction_july.pdf.

(3) You actually have 3 filing strategies (assuming your home country follows the Paris Convention and is a member of the PCT; you should verify):

(a) File a national (or, in your instance, European regional if you qualify) application in your home country first. Within one year, then file in target countries following the Paris Convention; list of countries following the Paris Convention are given here: https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?lang=en&treaty_id=2.

(b) File a national (or, in your instance, European regional if you qualify) application in your home country first. Within one year, file a PCT application. Within PCT time limits, then file a national phase/stage application in target countries that are member states of the PCT. Member states of the PCT are given here: https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/pct_contracting_states.html. Time limits are given here: https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/texts/time_limits.html. The default deadline is 30 mo from the priority date; but there are important exceptions. Note that the PCT application is primarily a placeholder; in particular, it never matures into an international patent. Within the time limits, you must file a national phase/stage application in each target country (of course, you incur fees for each target country).

(c) File a PCT application first. Within PCT time limits, then file a national phase/stage application in target countries that are member states of the PCT. Verify that your home country allows you to do this. Some countries require you to file a national application in your home country first.

(4) Note that special rules apply for Taiwan, since it’s not a PCT member. Taiwan is a major manufacturer of semiconductor devices. Companies involved in semiconductor devices or equipment for fabricating semiconductor devices frequently file for patent protection there. If Taiwan is a target country for you, discuss Taiwan filings with your patent practitioner; also see the following for background information: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=aeab6d3d-767c-40f3-ba0c-dde393ab2c53 .

(5) There are other countries that require special handling, but they typically are not of commercial interest.

This should give you plenty to think over and discuss with your patent practitioner. And, yes, applying for patent protection is a gamble. Good luck.

Last edited:
thanks for the info. Yes she was a government staff and she works in the government official patent office.

Well I guess I need to discuss this in detail with the patent practitioner because maybe if I decide to build this myself and I'm doing it here in my country I don't need an international patent, or does one also need a patent for each country where he or she would want to sell the device not just for the country where the device is manufactured?

CrysPhys
Education Advisor
thanks for the info. Yes she was a government staff and she works in the government official patent office.

Well I guess I need to discuss this in detail with the patent practitioner because maybe if I decide to build this myself and I'm doing it here in my country I don't need an international patent, or does one also need a patent for each country where he or she would want to sell the device not just for the country where the device is manufactured?
We've addressed this issue several times already. It's important that you understand what a patent does and does not do. So please discuss this in more detail with your home country patent official and patent practitioner. Here is a succinct summary from the EPO (https://www.epo.org/applying/basics.html):

"Patents are valid in individual countries for specified periods. They are generally granted by a national patent office, or a regional one like the EPO. Patents confer the right to prevent third parties from making, using or selling the invention without their owners' consent." <<Emphasis added.>>

Again, you have patent protection only in countries in which you apply for and are granted a patent. No one, not even major Megacorps, files for patent protection in every country with a patent system. Way too expensive, and totally unnecessary. They take into account the countries in which significant business is expected and in which they are likely to be able to enforce their patent rights. For example, if your invention [in Europe] is a new type of ice skate, you would likely not file for protection in Taiwan, Singapore, or Malaysia. But if your invention is a new type of photolithography machine you probably would (they are major centers for semiconductor device manufacturing). China is a huge market for many things, but many companies will apply for patent protection there only if they have a Chinese partner of some sort (difficult to get enforcement otherwise, since business and government are inextricably linked).

artis
russ_watters
Mentor
Well I guess I have to take my chances with this , because all in all I got two options, either to try it out or simply forget about it, given I've spent some 5 or so years doing this in the background and I can't or haven't found any obvious similar ideas that would show up I'd guess would be wrong to forget about it completely.
I will make some calls and ask some questions about the specifics but I'd assume even if everything goes totally silent and the idea is a no-go I'm risking about 2500usd.
I know people who have lost twice that in drunken gambling.
It doesn't sound to me like you are considering hiring someone to evaluate it. Why not? It will be cheaper and faster as a first step.

Vanadium 50 and berkeman
What do you mean by evaluate it? I am working together with an engineer with regards to the physics at maths aspect of the idea and in theory it works, but there are some peculiarities and some novelties and the only way we could be fully sure is to simulate the idea at least.
My current best plan is to make some NDA contracts and 3d simulate the idea with the help from the best guys from my local university, then if everything seems good proceed with a patent procedure, does this sound reasonable?
Simply making a patent for something that doesn't work the way it needs would be a waste of time and paper , I agree that much.

russ_watters
Mentor
What do you mean by evaluate it? I am working together with an engineer with regards to the physics at maths aspect of the idea and in theory it works...
Oh - your other posts strongly implied you weren't already working with an engineer since you were asking about contacting an engineer. If the person you are working with is competent for what you need, and you/he are confident the device works "in theory", then I do think at least getting started on a patent would be the next logical step.

Getting a 3d model working is likely more expensive than getting a patent. But I don't see any other real downside with doing the modeling first.

Well I'm sorry maybe I left some bits out, but yes I am working with an older man who worked as a radio engineer for his life, the reason I want to model this is because even though I know it works I am not fully sure how good because it is kind of complicated to determine efficiency for an unusual design and specific parts that combine electromagnetism , flux paths and reactances.

Right now I'm facing a dilemma, I could file a patent which would cost me around 2k usd, I could simulate the idea first (which seems more logical from a physics perspective) but this option as I just found out would cost me roughly double that, around 4k usd, maybe even bit more.
Thirdly I could simply try to build the damn thing which would probably cost me around the same as simulating it with a 3d virtual model. And this last option seems kind of stupid in the age of IT technology as simulating doesn't require to waste materials in case the device doesn't work as planned and can allow for simple changes and reconfiguration.

Problem of course for me is money, I'm kind of down with luck I guess. What would you do in my situation?

CrysPhys
Education Advisor
Right now I'm facing a dilemma, I could file a patent which would cost me around 2k usd, I could simulate the idea first (which seems more logical from a physics perspective) but this option as I just found out would cost me roughly double that, around 4k usd, maybe even bit more.
Thirdly I could simply try to build the damn thing which would probably cost me around the same as simulating it with a 3d virtual model. And this last option seems kind of stupid in the age of IT technology as simulating doesn't require to waste materials in case the device doesn't work as planned and can allow for simple changes and reconfiguration.

Problem of course for me is money, I'm kind of down with luck I guess. What would you do in my situation?
The answer depends on timetable: how long would it take for the simulation and how long would it take to build the device?