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Thoughts on inventing, patents and marketing



Posted by Brad Arnold on January 29, 01 (from WWWMachine Shop forum)

I have a question. I have always spent my time creating gadgets and gizmos and hickenflickers, some of which do not inflict bodily harm. Some of these creations are actually quite useful and I believe would benefit this trade. My problem is, I have no connections with marketers or someone who is not going to rip me off. Last year, out of frustration with current go-carts on the market, I invented a different type of machine. I contacted some suppliers who told me that my machine was like nothing they had ever seen, and told me also it was a good idea. They said yes they would market it, as long I had $2 million in liability insurance. I told them I would call back, in about, oh, let's say, 10,000 years. I also have numerous other little things I have invented that would be a help to the machine industry. I do not trust these "invention submission companies." I have heard about people giving plans to Sears to see if they would market their product. Sears would indeed return their correspondence, but with a letter stating that the product was not economically feasible or some other garbage. Two years later, coincidentally of course, that product would somehow become economically feasable and appear on a shelf at Sears, and the true inventor would be up S.crick. If anyone can share some knowledge of this suject with me, I would appreciate it. Thanks. Still burning my lips with chips.
Brad Arnold

Posted by John O
I recently got a patent on a tool. It also was a PITA, but I'm glad I did it. Now, I'm in the process of having it manufactured, at my expense, and am going to try to market it myself. There is a book called "Patent It Yourself", which I recommend. You may find it in the library, or you can buy it for about $50. It is possible to do it yourself. The application fee is about $350, and if it issued, that will be another $605. Not bad, when that stops anyone else from making your invention without your permission.
I had an offer to license it, but it was exclusive, and left me on the outside looking in. This is my baby, and I wasn't ready to give it up. I have some doubts at the moment about its marketability, and some fear that it will be rejected when I try to sell it at a big convention of woodturners (it is a new woodturning tool). But I will be there. It will make them think, because it does partially solve a big problem, namely dust.
Talking about an idea with a company without even filing a patent application is at least risky. A reputable company may refuse to talk. Read the book.

Posted by Smitty

I am impressed and pleased by reading everyones responses to this topic. I just started a business and with it were a few ideas for some of my own products. I thouht of doing that for the sole purpose of having a few extra bucks come in each month, which is how its working so far. Hopefully I'll get a good idea that nets a fair sum some day to.
About the cost of a patent. I had a lawyer tell me IF I came up with something to patent it would cost over $100,000 to patent it and that inorder to be protected overseas I would need another patent that would cost over $250,000 and only be good in something like 12 countries. I never pursed it further and switched lawyers. One of you guys said something about it (a patent) only costing $1100, is that recent? Just curious!
Have Fun!

Posted by D. Thomas

My patent cost about $1,600 in 1985 and that included a patent search, a patent lawyer doing most of the work and a professional graphics person doing the drawings. If I had nothing better to do I could have done it all myself for even less. Having said that, it does depend somewhat on the complexity of your item and how many "claims" are rejected and have to be resubmitted. My patent involved a realatively simple device www.delphion.com/cgi-bin/viewpat.cmd/US04603717__
Probably cost a bit more now 16 years later, but obviously your first lawyer was FOS.

Posted by Ron Oman

Enjoyed the previous discussions on inventions, licensing and marketing pitfalls so much that I'm compelled to share my experience on the subject and maybe provide the boost that we all need from time to time.

In the late 1980's I invented an aircraft engine preheater that uses liquid fuel, weighs 6.5 lbs. and collapses into it self for storage. I did all the normal things that inventors do, like spend lots of money on protyping and experimenting with different designs and materials and neglected my family every evening and weekend. But my family and I pulled through it ok and the preheater was born. Once the field testing of the final version was complete and test the marketing proved that pilots would buy it for a given amount of money, I did a patent search. In fact I did two searches about 4 months apart. Each search took me 3 + days working 6 to 8 hours each day to complete. This may seem like a long time but you never want to rush a patent search, there are some tricks to doing it right. Then I tried to write my own patent using "Patent it Yourself" by Pressman. I found out in short order that I'm not a writer so I hired a patent engineer to write it. Two years and $2800 later my patent was issued. After everything was said and done we were able to hold on to 13 patent claims.

While the patenting process was in motion I was manufacturing and marketing the preheater to the best of my abilities, at least that's what I thought. But everything changed when I discovered a little 118 page book called "GOOD IDEA NOW WHAT" by Howard Bronson, a Warner Book, Edition, copyright 1986,ISBN 0-446-39094-1. This little book is without a dought the best eye opener book for us inventors that we could hope for. Get one now guys/gals it will save you lots of headaches and give you a fighting chance at making your invention a success. Another must have is the little known manual called "INVENTION LICENSING AND ROYALTY RATE STRUCTURE" by Paul H. Lindenberger, PO Box 8145 Pembroke Pines Branch, Pembroke Pines, Florida 33084, (305) 962-2359. These two books along with Patent it Your Self by Pressman have been my main references. Just to give you an idea what can happen if you apply the proper marketing techniques outlined in Bronson's book. We were fielding 5 to 7 faxes along with 8 to 10 calls per week regarding the preheater. After applying some of Bronson's ideas we started getting 10 to 25 faxes a day and 10 to 15 call per day for about 4 months, then it tapered off abit. This all directly relates to more sales and profit if you have done your home work in the manufacturing area. I didn't have my manufacturing process tuned up all that well back then so my profits were less than they could have been, but I'm learning all the time. I think I have enough material to write a book on manufacturing pitfalls, that is if I were a writer, which I'm not.

Another important thing to remember is don't be afraid to discuss your idea with a trusted friend or someone that has expertise in a field associated with your idea. I don't mean to say you should discuss your idea with anybody that will listen, but you can learn alot just by listening and observing how friends or experts react to your idea or your prototype. Very few inventions these days are the brain child of a sole individual. Also, I would guess that 99% of the people that have an idea or have heard about good ideas don't have what it takes to follow through with it. As some of you know it requires a tremendous amount of effort to take an invention to market. There are some exceptions to this rule of thumb. One of them being that if you invented a cure for Cancer, Aids etc. you would have to be very careful who you confided in because you are talking about an idea that is worth BILLONS, be careful with multi million dollar ideas too.

If a company or individual offers to buy your invention, be realistic about what it is worth but don't be foolish either. There's this guy near me that invented a charcoal starting device. Like most inventors he knew this was his golden parachute and he would never have to work again. Coleman (the outdoor camping gear outfit) offered him $250,000 for his invention. When he asked them about the manufacturing and marketing plan he was told they were going to shelf the charcoal starter because it competed with one of their other products. He didn't want his invention put on the shelf so he didn't sell it to them, but he didn't manufacture or market it himself either. So the moral is, be realistic about what is best for you in the long run.

Food for thought: What is the single most important invention in the world?

[This message has been edited by Admin5 (edited 02-01-2001).]

D. Thomas

Assuming you mean a mechanical or chemical invention, and not something obvious like "the wheel" or "the ability to produce fire", I'd say either the printing press or the birth control pill (really!)

zippity do

New member
I have 2 patents at this writing. Both cost around $10,000 so far. Then of course there are the up-keep fees on the patents that run about $475 every 2 1/2 years. The cheapest, lowest cost method is to start with a provisional patent which cost $80. You can prepare it yourself or hire a lawyer to examine it before you send it our the door. Of course, that's where the money starts adding up - lawyers! It is good for 1 year - you have to file the "real thing" within that 1st year. But in the 1st year you can assess whether your idea has any merit, interest, backers, etc. As long as you have filed the provisional patent you may use the words "Patent Pending" which should protect you as you proceed. I would also suggest a confidentiality agreement with anyone you involve in the process: i.e. manufacturers you use for prototyping, employees, etc.


New member
At current rates a simple mechanical device should cost between $5000 and $10,000 to patent. It is easier to obtain a patent than it is to sell or make money from it, so in order to make it worth it you have to have something pretty good. Using Patent It Yourself is ok but claim drafting is very technical, I have seen patents drafted by lawyers (not patent lawyers) that were worthless. I'm a journeyman machinist and a patent lawyer. Anyone who needs patent info can contact me at [email protected]. Put "patent Inquiry" in the subject line, otherwise your question may get deleted because I get so much junk mail.
I have tried to take the cheap route.
I studied how to write patents and wrote my own.
It was 46 pages long which included all drawings.
I revised it to the USPTO's standards.
But I could not keep up with the revisions that they kept sending. One person would say make these changes but someone else would want other changes. It really get's to be to much on an independent inventor. (In my book)
I think that in the future, I will do the following.
1) Hire a patent attorney to handle the writing (I can do the designs as I am a design engineer by trade)
2) Focus on marketing (in my case, just by making a bunch of the the products (hoping their cheap)and giving them out and sell sell sell

good luck to you
I wish all here the best, a great group. thank you all for sharing the knowledge. :cool: web page


New member
Check out these peopel. Stoel Rives Atturneys at law I thank thay are the best there is and thay earn there $. Mel


New member
keep in mind as well that any money spent on patents drives up the cost of your item, which can often inhibit sales.
not all ideas need to be patented to be marketed for a profit.

there are patents and then there are patents. just because you have 'a patent' does not mean you are protected. the more potential your ideas has the more reason to spend on a good patent lawyer.
write it yourself and if your idea is in fact good and marketable some lawyer will just write his way around it. often minor changes can be made to get around your patent protection.


New member
All of this seems like good info. Thanks for the posts.

From my limited experiences, I have a couple of comments.

The first is that you can choose to hire a "patent agent" rather than a "patent lawyer." I think that an agent tends to be cheaper and more of a "straight talker" than a lawyer. Here is a site which describes the basic differences between the two:

The second comment is that, if you are going to hire a professional, it is important to find someone with whom you are comfortable working, a person who understands your invention and what you want to do with it. You can always change lawyers or agents. I think the guy who quoted a fee of $100,000 to $250,000 to Smitty, should not be talking to an individual inventor. This point may seem obvious, but it is worth remembering when we are overwhelmed, so that we don't get make our situation worse by sticking with the wrong person.

My own experience is that I got one several years ago, through my day job:
The first draft of that application was written by a patent attorney from my Lab who didn't really understand the invention, and wrote a lousy, unclear application, mostly by cutting and pasting sections of a journal article I had written about the device. The patent application initially was rejected by the USPTO examiner, but I was able to respond to them and explain how my device differed from previous art. So the patent eventually was awarded. Since then, the invention has not been licensed, and the Lab is going to stop paying the maintenance fees. For me, the good that came of it was getting something to put on my resume and learning a little bit about the process.

More recently, I have come up with a simpler device that has some specialized applications for cryogenic work. I have been making and selling that out of my home, and have a patent pending on that device. For this one, I filed an invention disclosure with my employer, who released the invention rights to me. So I wrote my own provisional patent application (cost is about $100 for individuals or small businesses), which gives me protection for up to one year. But it was necessary to file a complete patent application before that year expired, in order to preserve my rights. For that process, I hired a patent agent, and am satisfied with the way he wrote the application.



New member
I might be a bit cynical about this, but to me the value of patents are not really about stopping others from copying. That said, given a adequatly covering patent that might be an option, but what you are paying for in that repect is essentially just a right to sue others - which will easily cost you a small fortune just to try.

I consider the value of patents to be on the marketing side. Not only towards to end market, but very much towards potential investors as well. For them a patent is a guarantee that it is actually something new.

The other value, which comes into consideration internationally is that the world trade organization and other organization has rules with gouverns "fair trade". Essentially, if you have a patent you are allowed to disregard most of these rules and actually stop for instance grey imports between counties.

And by all means - do use professionals. It is not difficult getting a patent as such, but if you want to truly patent something you want to make sure it is not full of loopholes and such. And patent language is the very weird science of being precisely imprecise.

Just my cents.


New member
If you get a patent can you just use it as a way for someone else not trying to patant something before yours becomes common knowlage so you can stop someone from copying it and patenting it because the patent office wont accept their application because you aready have yours in the "system" and then turning around and claiming your copying their design ?? :confused:



New member
what you are paying for in that repect is essentially just a right to sue others - which will easily cost you a small fortune just to try.
BadBeta is right on the money -- patents are almost entirely for the purposes of litigation.

I have a substantial portfolio of patents issued and pending through my day job, but our in-house patent attorneys make it very clear that a patent isn't worth much until it's "tested" -- either you (the bearer) successfully sue someone for infringing, or a competitor protests your patent and you successfully defend the patent in court.

There's a whole bunch of useless, looney patents that have been issued, like the guy who patented the swing, and someone at IBM patenting a method for lining up for the bathroom (no joke). The patent examiners really shouldn't be letting this through the system, but they're unbelievably overloaded, so they only do a very brief search of "prior art".

If you're going to try the do it yourself route, it's really important that you spend a lot of time in the claims section. The description of the patent is of relatively minor importance -- it's mostly so the patent examiner knows what you're proposing, but it holds no legal weight on it's own. You're not patenting the description -- you patent the claims in the claims section. I've seen quite a few good patents shot down because the authors did a great job on the description section, but didn't carefully lay out their claims in the claims section.

patent language is the very weird science of being precisely imprecise.
Perfect description
You want to write your claims as broad as possible, so your competitor can't just make a simple change and patent the variant. That's where the endless revisions and re-submissions to the Patent Office happen.

I personally wouldn't recommend doing this without a good patent attorney helping with the revisions.


New member

I am a record collector but always had my own workshop at home with many tools, including a lathe and a mill.

Because of my interest in analogue replay of music from vinyl records, I acquired some expensive audio gear over the years. Six years ago, I started experimenting to make my own moving coil phono cartridge. This is a device which is simple at first glance, but calls for the highest degree of precision turning and milling.

The idea of a moving coil cartridge cannot be patented and I realised if I should want to make these things to sell successfully, I should come up with a better way to arrange the internal components.

Once I was sure I had something better than the best 'bought' phono cartridges I acquired over the years, I made some enquiries with local patent attorneys of which there are only about half dozen in my country.

There was the usual search and soon they turned up something which had some remote connection with a very large international company - not to do with my design, but to do with what I called the product. Unsurprisingly, the attorneys offered to negotiate 'on my behalf' for an inflated fee with the other firm (which they themselves represented!).

I smelled a ripoff and told them to forget it.

Instead, I called the British trade consulate and asked them to send me a list of British patent and trademark attorneys.

I picked two, contacted them and did the business with the first firm which responded.

Today, I have a patent, trademark and design registrations in the EEC and in the US.

It cost a lot, but I wasn't ripped off.

My neighbour across the road also had something he wanted internationally patented and went the local route with the same rip off lawyers. His cost was 3 times mine for the same thing.

If you sense you are being setup for a ripoff, just walk away.


Tony Woodward

New member
what you are paying for in that repect is essentially just a right to sue others - which will easily cost you a small fortune just to try.
Unless you enjoy litigation and can afford to pursue an infringement action, you can easily end up like the poor schmuck who spent years trying to get Ford and GM to ante up for the intermittent windshield wiper which he had invented and patented. I remember reading in the newspaper (Washington DC area) that he had ruined his health and been spent into the poorhouse by the automakers.

Although I had some patentable ideas way back when, I took the approach of waiting (years!) until I had acquired the ability to actually manufacture the items. Depending on the item, and how hard it is for others to reverse-engineer and duplicate, not to mention sell effectively, you can build an insurmountable lead in the market.

Now, that presupposes a niche market, but there are cases where the whole patent effort just wastes your time, or worse, becomes an end in itself. A friend of mine talked about his pending patent for several years, paying people for 3D renderings, etc., while convincing himself that once he had it, he wouldn't need to do anything else. I kept telling him, "Hey--here's how you could set up and make that thing. It's probably not patentable, no matter what your small-town attorney says. Never mind that, just hammer out the production methods and get it out there; you already know what magazines to advertise it in. If it's that great an idea, somebody else is probably thinking about it right now and they won't waste time trying to patent it, they'll just build it." Well, somebody did just that, end of story.

Then there is the guy everybody has worked with in a shop who is bitter about "that damn big company" who "stole" the idea he had back in 1940 for the internal collet (or some other machine-shop staple, pick one). If he had just had a patent, why, then he'd be rich right now, etc., etc. Never mind that he never took his idea beyond making that one piece on the job--or that the successful commercialization of a tool is much harder (and, some might say, represents more of an accomplishment) than the concept itself. And heaven help anyone who might show him a drawing of an internal collet in a textbook published before he was born!

I am convinced that an industrious person can make a nice living making and selling stuff that has been in the public domain for decades, or longer. You don't need a patent to manufacture files, for example. You just have to make really good files that people will buy in preference to somebody else's files.

I have three U.S. patents, and two pending patents. They cost about $3000-$5000 each, plus the cost of drawings, and issue fees. If you want a global PCT patent, it cost about $25,000. You should use a professional patent lawyer, if you want to cover yourself. There is allot of BS parsing of words that can work around a poorly worded patent.

Contact me at [email protected] I can refer you to my patent lawyer. He is a honest hard working, intelligent person. If you feel confident, that your tool has big potential, then by all means get the patent. Do not use the VERY EXPENSIVE INVENT HELP! They charge about $25,000 per patent.

This invitation applies to any member of this forum who needs help with a patent.
The answer to your question " What is the single most important invention in the world?"

That would have to be computers.

Without computers we would not have this forum, the internet, CNC machines, CAD drafting...


New member
I would have thought the transistor so computers arent yhe size of a house. Lets see, 125,000,000 in a penny size, so 125,000,000 tubes....125 in a 1 cubic foot box, 100ft X 100ft X 100ft, so you could fit 6 on a football feild.
Or steam engine, power for industry, distance travel without a great supply...
light bulb, wheel,
Wait. The Thermos bottle!!! How does it know to keep something hot or cold?

And what have we invented since the computer, that was not just an improvement.

The SR-71 was slide rule.

Not rippin'on ya, just for fun.
A computer is a machine. It takes allot of components. Microprocessors, hard drives, monitors, memory chips, and software. Is the software as important as the hardware. Probably so, because if people can't program, and control the machine, then it's useless. A transistor is nothing without the rest of the components. What machine built those transistors? How would you make those transistors, without a computerized machine? How about vacuum tubes. No I think it was the abacus. The slide ruler was the greatest invention in the world, because it built the SR-71??? It had nothing to do with the incredible genius of it's creators. :rolleyes:

How would a F-117, or B-2 stealth bomber ever fly without computer assistance??? The answer is that they can't fly without computer assistance. Hence the name the hopeless diamond.

I could go a step further than that. Where would we be without electricity? This makes the electric generator the most important invention ever. More specifically the AC generator. As you probably know, DC electricity can't travel long distances over power lines, so the AC generator is the most important invention ever.

There has been more innovation in last 30 years than any other period of time. I think you vastly understated the importance of computers with your comment of "just an improvement"??? :confused:


New member
but what would a computer be without transistors?

Keep it light.

And what plane was as inovative as the SR-71- and it was done with calculaters, men who calculated.

It may be the subtractive inflence. If you take the invention of the transistors away, you have mechanical and tube computers.

Okay computers are the be-all end-all.

Before the use of electricity, steam made some great strides.

About 15 years ago, 1/2 of all scienctists who ever lived were alive, human thought drove the inventions.

Look at the Skunkworks, amd no computers for a long time.

To see if something is great, take it away. without computers, you still have a lot, that may be the test.

Electricity is not an invention, anymore than Columbus discovered America.