If you are an inventor interested in protecting your idea outside the United States or mitigating foreign imports from China that impact your market share & profit margins, then my number 1 suggestion is to ask yourself this question:
How ambitious are your commercial expansion goals outside the United States?
Once you pose this question, it helps formulate a strategy for foreign filings, since you could choose to target ONE country or multiple nations in the initial application. This of course causes some anxiety for inventors since it can be an overwhelming thought.
However, there is a simple way to approach this dilemma: I suggest filing the initial patent in the United States since this automatically protects you from foreign imports, including those from China. The inventor then has a full 12 months to consider additional countries that he may wish to file patent protection for his idea or product.
Your patent attorney can help you with this selection process and also explain the benefits of the “highway patent system” for getting sister and brother patents fast-tracked abroad using the American filing as a launch pad.
Officially known as the Patent Prosecution Highway, it speeds up the examination process for corresponding applications filed in foreign participating IP offices. Some of the participating countries are listed below.
I also remind inventors that the core value of most businesses and startups up today is not the land, equipment, manufacturing facilities or other physical property. In fact, the most valuable assets are knowledge-based intangibles such as Intellectual Property, Ideas and Patents.
As such, understanding the risks and rewards of foreign patent filings under International Patent Law will be a key ingredient in building a million-dollar brand – something we all dream off. With increasing concern about copycats in China and the threat of cheaper imports, inventors need to act decisively to protect and profit from their idea and I can certainly help in this endeavor!
Startups and entrepreneurs both chuckled and nodded gravely when John Oliver used his comedic hour on “Last Week Tonight” to satirize Intellectual Property and the growing threat of Patent Trolls, warning that “arriving on the set of Shark Tank without a patent is like turning up to America’s Next Top Model without knowing how to smize or booty tooch!”
Patents: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - YouTube
However, he reserved the bulk of his biting humor for the one issue that keeps Inventors up at night: Patent Trolls.
These unsavory characters, said Oliver, typically don’t invent anything or sell anything of value. They simply exist to buy patents and make their money threatening lawsuits in what many call the ultimate “shakedown.”
“Calling them trolls is a little misleading: At least trolls actually do something: They control bridge access for goats and ask people fun riddles.”
Oliver recognized the massive problem this posed to entrepreneurs across America stating that at least 3000 out of 4,700 lawsuits in 2013 were initiated by trolls.
Astonishingly, this litigation may have cost inventors roughly 500 billion dollars or more since 1990.
Oliver highlighted this abuse by referencing Austin Myers, the inventor of a flight simulator app who one day received a patent infringement letter from a company called Unilock, which declared that it owned the original idea for a computer program calling up a central server for authorization.
The galactic scope and implication of this infringement challenge (which broadly covers ANY android or Apple app ever built) was not lost on Oliver.
“Essentially this means I could show up at the headquarters of Tinder and demand a cut of everything Tinder has created, which I assume would be a pile of STDs, sad orgasms and shards of human self-esteem!”
The absurdity of this infringement landscape also extends to casual users of technology or inventions.
Southeastern Employment Services, which provides job opportunities for Americans with disabilities received an ultimatum: Either fork over $1000 for each employee using the scanned email function on the onsite copy machine or face an expensive lawsuit.”
Folner, the litigant claimed it could enforce this payout since it owns the underlying patents for the software process programmed into the machine.
“Wow,” said Oliver.
“When you are threatening to sue a company which helps people with disabilities find work for using their own photocopier you’re not just on the road to hell you have your own parking spot right next to the devil.”
But what is the underlying cause for the growth of these patent trolls and the consequent infringement lawsuits?
Oliver suggests the The United States Patent Office has become overwhelmed with the surge in patent filings, especially in the technology realm, and the difficult task of ascertaining whether an inventor’s idea “is new, useful,and obvious”.
“Incidentally all the adjectives that Tom Cruise would say he’s seeking in an ideal mate,” said Oliver.
This challenge is especially true for software patent filings which like the growth of railroads a century before, require an exceptional, updated set of research and analytical skills by overloaded patent clerks.
Unlike machine patents, software patents can be so broad and vague that they may give someone later the ability to claim ownership over ideas that were not originally thought of at the time.
This allows Patent Trolls to pursue vaguely defined software patents and later parlay that into expensive lawsuits against unwitting inventors.
“Basically if they thought to ‘patent computer things that never works’ years ago they would currently be getting rich off off Facetime – very, very rich!”
The Patent Trolls usually find a way to get 90% of their lawsuits settled before going to court in what experts call an “extortion game” since it costs on average around $3 million to defend a patent in a courtroom.
Inventors would rather settle earlier than exhaust their capital in a long-running, expensive court battle.
The Patent Trolls, say Oliver, are thus estimating the maximum amount of money inventors would be willing to pay rather than going to court.
“They pick a number the same way airlines pick a cabin temperature: Perfectly calibrated to make you miserable, but not so much that you’d actually do anything about it.”
These sinister trolls often hide behind embellished names which have greek mythological overtones like Pragmatus IP.
“Incidentally pragmatist sounds like the most boring mythological Greek hero of all time. ‘I am pragmatist and I shall not battle the Hydra for it is much larger than me. so I shall go home via the farmers market for the bruised vegetables are cheaper at the end of the day! Pragmatist bids you farewell!’”
Texas bears the unlucky mantle of being a favorite destination for patent trolls, with over 25% of infringement lawsuits filed in the Lone Star State.
In particular, the town of Marshall, home to 24,000 Texans is one epicenter when it comes to Patent Troll activity.
Judges and courtrooms appear to favor trolls, which Oliver said is leading many major tech companies to launch giant PR campaigns to sway public opinion and the makeup of future juries.
For instance, Samsung, on the receiving end of many patent troll cases, has spent millions on community outreach ventures including building a giant skating rink outside the courthouse in Marshall.
“Do you know how hard that is to maintain: it’s like building a bowling alley in space!”
Oliver also lamented the death of the bipartisan bill, The Innovation Act, in the Senate a few years ago which had a few common sense provisions including encouraging judges to make patent trolls pay court costs if they lose, and forcing patent trolls to be more transparent about their identities.
While not perfect, he surmised the patent reform bill would have helped deter patent trolls.
“It’s like when parents, of teenagers lock the liquor cabinet. Look I know this isn’t going to stop you, Rhapsody, but it will make it just a little harder for you to ****up the entire neighborhood!’
Experts say that trial lawyer lobbyists in Washington championed the death of the bill.
“That’s the equivalent of trusting raccoons to make laws about garbage can placements: they should be easy to reach and left slightly open. All in favor say (Aye)!’
Oliver closed his late night routine by confirming the Innovation Act may be making a welcome comeback. But regardless, something must be done soon or else American businesses may have to operate without patents.
Oliver could think of only ONE business that fits this new model, an entrepreneur who appeared briefly on the Shark Tank with a once in a lifetime investment opportunity: I want to Draw a Cat For You!”
His two latest books Think & Grow Rich For Inventors & Escaping the gray have climbed to the top of the Amazon best seller list and garnered some feedback from famous business moguls including Kevin Harrington, Original “Shark” on the hit TV Series Shark Tank ® and the inventor of the infomercial and As Seen on TV
“If you have an idea and the drive to develop that idea to its limits, you can’t go wrong by getting Think & Grow Rich for Inventors,” said Mr. Harrington.
The book singing event will offer insights into how to bring your idea to market successfully by Mr. Rizvi, who is a registered patent attorney, John Rizvi, Esq, and Adjunct Professor of Patent Law at Nova Southeastern University.
“In his book, Think and Grow Rich for Inventors, John tells the inspiring story of a client of his that dropped out of medical school and launched a new surgical tool, selling his patent for a $100 million dollars,” said Mr. Harrington.
If you are an American inventor or entrepreneur with a new idea, you cannot help but relate to the long, exhilarating, and yet sometimes painful journey of creating something new. Follow along and discover the secrets behind doggedly pursuing your dreams and the courage to risk escaping the gray in your life. John Rizvi, Esq., a leading Miami Patent Attorney explores his personal 20 year journey through patent law that encompassed both dark, heartbreaking moments and uplifting triumphs as he sought to help inventors protect and profit from their ideas.
By turns funny and serious, whimsical and straightforward, vulnerable and honest, John Rizvi details his journey from resigning as a patent attorney for one of the most prestigious and revered patent law firms in the world – a firm that counted Bell, Edison, the Wright Brothers and Ford among its distinguished client roster – to going out on his own to represent tomorrow’s leaders in innovation.
The book recently reached best seller status on Amazon and has also won glowing reviews from Shark Tank Founder, Kevin Harrington who stated:
“John has a knack for explaining difficult legal concepts in plain English. In fact, that is why I asked John to write the chapter on patents in my new book. John is the real deal.”
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One of these major success stories belongs to Alexander Gomez, who doggedly pursued an idea related to laparoscopic surgery when just about everyone around him told he was crazy. He dropped out of medical school to solve a clumsy method used by surgeons he encountered during brief spells as a surgical technician:” Surgeons, operating in chilly operating rooms, were performing laparoscopic surgery which caused the camera lens to fog up when it was inserted into the warm body. “To counter this, they would dip the scope in a bucket of water to defog it. Our hospital was small and dated, so I assumed we were using an archaic method.”
After several years of effort and perseverance he developed a product that became the standard tool used in most U.S. hospitals. He ended up selling his startup for over $100 million. It’s an inspirational story for entrepreneurs and first-time inventors who wonder whether they can make a profit off their idea. Read about it on The Patent Professor Blog and contact me if you would like further details about his journey and whether your particular idea has merit.
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