Moving forward with the patent
Several weeks after we provided the drawings and explanation of the products use, we received a notification that there didn’t appear to be a conflicting patent and that we could move forward. The Unites States uses a “first to file” model rather than a “first to use” model, meaning you can have a great original idea and even take it to production, but if someone else files a patent claiming your design, you generally lose rights to the idea.
For individuals who are attempting to patent a design and bring it to market, there are also two different “levels” of a patent. The first is a “provisional” patent, and that is what the patent attorneys were filing for us. A provisional patent protects you for 12 months so that you can shop around your idea and talk to manufacturers and designers without fear of someone stealing it. It is relatively inexpensive and is a useful tool for the inventor to determine the commercial viability of the potential product.
If you fail to file for a permanent patent within the 12-month period, then your protection is lost and someone else can claim the idea. This has significant implications that I’ll discuss a little later.
We knew we were moving forward, so we met with our account representative at the marketing company and they explained the fee structure for the next steps. We would need to pay a patent attorney to file the provisional patent, and they referred us to a specific law firm. They were clear that we could use any attorney we wanted, but they recommend that we use the same attorney that did our original search. We went with them.
They then offered to market our idea to potential manufacturers to try and attain a contract for marketing rights. This is what most inventors want, which is a company that believes in your idea enough they are willing to incur all the cost of design and manufacturing while paying you a residual feel based on the sales of the product. Most are in the 20% to 25% of the gross range the rep told me.
We were in for a deal like that!
To market the product, they would build an online product show case. The renderings of the product we did for original patent search would be used as a basis for the drawings, and they had several different levels of sophistication ranging from a simple graphic of the product with a written explanation to 3D modeled demonstrations with a live actor voicing over the demonstration. Of course, each was priced differently!
We chose the middle option which was a slideshow with computer renderings of the product in several settings and a computer-generated voice which would “read” the narrative that we would write. The narrative would be based on the description we were providing to the USPTO.
We spent several days writing the narrative until we were satisfied. The company put us in contact with a design department representative who worked closely with us as we finalized the slideshow. We ended up with a series of computer generated “pictures” that demonstrated how the SeaClutch worked and showed it in a variety of settings holding pictures.
This was a big step (and another check!). With this step, we would have patent protection for our idea and we would be marketing it through an online marketplace that manufacturers used to find new and interesting ideas! Several days after all the work was complete, we received an email telling us that the patent had been filed and providing us with a provisional patent number! We also received an email that provided a link to our “dashboard” where we could see how many manufacturers had reviewed our ideas, as well as a link to the online showcase.
We were patent holders and our idea was being marketed!