Patent Searches 101

If I provide you all the background information of what your competitors are doing, you can compare that to what you’re doing and you can actually improve your particular product based on what you see the ideas other people are doing and you can compare it to what you have. So not only do you protect yourself and see whether your item is patentable, you also get a database of what’s out there and you can improve your product based on that database.

Intro to Patent Searches

A new inventor comes on into my office and said, “here’s my idea, what’s the first thing I should do?” And I tell the inventor, “of course, you write it up, you give me your drawings. But the first thing you want to do is you want to have a patent search done.” Unfortunately, patent database, very large. A lot of things have been done.

A lot of inventors out there. Before you go ahead and you spend money on a patent application, you’re going to want to get a patent search done. And a patent search is basically checking the existing databases of existing patents and finding material that is as close to your invention as is possible.

What is a Patent Illustrator?

Yeah, it’s a draftsman, but it’s a patent draftsman, because the requirements are quite different, especially with regard to designs. If you have a product, this table for example, you would need to show a view of it from every angle. The top, the bottom, the sides, and a perspective, so that somebody can see exactly what it is.

Whereas with a utility, it’s much more open. You can show partial views, as long as it shows the important part. Sometimes there are circuit diagrams, other kinds of charts, flow charts,for example. None of that is used in the design patent.

Do You Have a Draftsmen?

And we have draftsmen that we work with, that we’ve worked with for many years. They keep the invention, of course, confidential. They work for us. They do drawings for both utility and design patents, and design patent drawings have to be done in a specific way. There’s certain kind of shading, certain types of views are required because you must be able to see every angle of the element that you’re trying to project. And these draftsmen that we have, uh, will do exactly what’s required.

Who Files a Provisional Patent?

So who files a provisional application? Somebody who’s really worried that they’re in a rapidly developing technological area and that he has lots of competitors. He hasn’t quite developed his product, to the product part, but he’s got the idea down. So he wants to instantly at least get as much information as he can immediately at this moment so that he can claim at least his idea, not necessarily the product that comes from the idea.

But the idea, in addition, a lot of times, people will file a provisional patent application believing that they have a decent understanding of their technological area and where it’s going to go. But while within that one year, they do further development. Maybe they put the product into manufacturing and they find out that some of the things that they originally planned on doing just wasn’t a good fit for manufacturing and had to change their design.

So in a way, a provisional patent application is inexpensive. It gives you a level of protection so you have some level of comfort on your core idea, but you’re not paying the money for a full-up patent application because you’re not particularly sure your idea is mature at that time.

Do I need to make a Model for a Patent?

People bring in models sometimes, it’s really not necessary. The patent office doesn’t require them. Hundreds of years ago they did. It’s something that’s not done now. However, what’s very nice is CAD drawings. For example, some people come in with them, other people, particularly independent inventors may bring in something that they’ve made at home, or something that is made on a 3D printer, whether at home, or by a special company that does that kind of work. And it helps, but eventually it has to be reduced to drawings, or photographs.

Design vs Utility Patent

I’m often asked the question, what is the difference between a design patent and a utility patent, and what do they cover? Because they are two distinct patents, and they cover two distinct areas. A design patent covers the ornamental beauty of something. And maybe we should discuss this best understood with an example.

What a design patent doesn’t cover is the functioning of an item. But as we said, the ornamental beauty. I have a car. A car fender, surprisingly, does not qualify for a design patent because it’s considered functional. You have to have a fender, it covers the wheel, it has to be a certain distance. Those are all fixed parameters that are known.

In contrast, the taillights on a car, because it can become of totally different designs. Yes, certainly is a functional aspect to it. We’re not going to argue that. The desirability of the taillight is how cool it looks on you.

How do I Obtain a Design Patent?

The process of obtaining a design patent is quite different. What’s most important are the drawings, because the protection actually comes right from the drawing that we submit to the patent office. Whereas every patent has claims, a design patent claim refers back to the drawing. In a utility patent, the claims are in words. So there’s quite a difference.

Design Patents vs Utility Patents

To begin with, there are two types of patents. There are design patents and utility patents. And the patents that people normally think about are utility patents. It can be a mechanical, electrical, a chemical patent. Design patents are quite different. They cover the shape of an item. And when you’re product can be protected well by the shape that it has, then the design patent is right for you. And by the way, your invention might need both, but there are certain items where the shape really cannot be changed. And that’s perfect for a design patent. If in fact, your invention could have several different shapes, then a design patent may not make sense because you may need several of them.