During my junior year in college, I had a genius idea. One of a kind, novel, and most importantly, patentable! Even if I didn’t know exactly what a patent was…I knew this idea needed a patent.
Being a broke Arizona State University student at the time, hiring an IP attorney was out of the question. Going directly to an attorney was the only option I knew. I searched the web for Arizona IP firms and found one with a free initial consultation.
The attorney told me to explore this little thing called the USPTO website and search for keywords around my idea. I got to my computer and searched. My idea was not new, one of a kind or genius. There were already 30 patents that basically said the same thing.
How can there be so many patents around the same idea?
I went to Wikipedia and began reading about terms like ‘prior art’, ‘novel’ and ‘first to file’. Lawyers love their complicated lexicon, so I decided to go to ASU’s Law School for help. The Lisa Foundation Patent Law Clinic started explaining what the patent process looked like. It wasn’t as easy as writing an idea on a napkin and mailing it to myself. It was tedious, time consuming, and extremely expensive. Just the filing fees were over $1,000 (a lot for me!). Add in hundreds of hours of prior art searches and the actual drafting of the provisional patents, utility patents, and response documents, the entire patent process was going to be tens of thousands of dollars.
The Patent Clinic took on the project and worked on protecting my idea for free. Within 45 days a provisional patent was filed with the USPTO. The waiting began.
The patent was filed in November 2010. We heard nothing about the status of the patent until January of 2013. I was startled when I read the letter stating all of our claims had been denied. The students were happy about it. They knew now how to redraft the claims as novel art against the 30 patents that looked very similar to ours. The response to the denied claims were drafted and sent back to the USPTO. And the waiting begins again. Who knows what the outcome will even be after all this time and work?
Filing trademarks, patents, copyrights, and all intellectual property is messy business. It’s a complicated process that gets more complicated as the process unfolds.
Spend the time learning about the types of IP and where to find the resources that can help you. My favorite place is Traklight.com. There’s an abundance of resources and information on their IP Cloud.