Pittsburgh, PA -Ever fantasize about taking the plunge as an independent inventor? Or are you simply looking for ways to protect the new ideas you spawn for your employer? In either case, a new "webcast" series may provide you with some valuable guidance.
Called "Inventors Insider," this growing collection of 30-minute archived shows provides useful information on many important topics surrounding invention and the patent system. Among them:
Ten rules for making money on your invention.
What happens when you file a patent.
Direct and indirect patent violations.
The differences in international patent laws.
How to move from being an inventor to an entrepreneur. Most patented devices never reach the manufacturing stage.
The host of the show is attorney Randy Notzen of The Webb Law Firm, one of Pittsburgh's oldest and most prominent intellectual property firms. Before going into law, Notzen worked for 10 years as a design engineer, developing hardware and software for test equipment.
"Most design engineers don't look upon themselves as inventors," says Notzen. "They tend to brush off the new ideas they come up with as just the product of hard work associated with problems they're trying to solve. As a result, a lot of good inventions fall through the cracks and are never patented."
U.S. companies, driven by sales and marketing considerations, tend to want to move products to market fast and don't want to take the time to patent their good ideas, says Notzen. In 1999, for example, only three of the top 10 companies getting patents in the U.S. were American firms: IBM, Motorola, and Lucent Technologies. By contrast, Asian companies dominated the list: NEC, Canon, Samsung, SONY, Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Mitsubishi.
If more companies made the investment in patenting their technology, observes Notzen, they would not only protect their novel ideas but could realize lucrative returns from licensing their technology. IBM, for example, nets $1 billion per year licensing its 15,000 patents. "Without a patent, the technology you design is subject to reverse engineering as soon as it moves out the door," he points out.
Would-be engineer-entrepreneurs looking for funding from venture capital firms also stand a much better chance of getting the backing they need if they have patented their technology, says Notzen.
And, contrary to popular thinking, a patent doesn't have to involve a breakthrough. Says Notzen: "Most patents are for improvements on existing technology."
Depending on the complexity of the device, the total costs for filing and prosecuting a patent today typically range from $8,000 to $20,000. And it usually takes from two to three years after filing for a patent to be issued.
Notzen notes that it is easier than ever before for design engineers and independent inventors to research patents. Using the web, people can access patents issued from January 1976 up to the very latest granted this year.
This fast and ready access to new technical ideas, accelerated by the web, is a prime reason why the U.S. economy has surged, Notzen believes. "We have moved from being a manufacturing-based economy to an information-based economy."
Design engineers can learn about invention, the patent
system, and the experiences of successful engineer-entrepreneurs by checking the
"Inventors Insider" series. You can access these webcasts from www.fromusalive.com .