Interview With An Inventor, Part I

I don’t often get in fights on Twitter, but when I do, it’s with IP Watchdog because he’s a bully (only sometimes, but still) or with inventors who feel that any attempt at curbing patent trolls will adversely affect them and their ability to sue people who infringe on their ideas.  OK, so maybe I exaggerate a little (or a lot because I am never prone to that) and they don’t think that any attempt is a dig at them, but it feels close sometimes.

I happen to “internet know” a couple of inventors, and one of them graciously agreed to answer some questions for me.  It’s not an attempt to appear fair and balanced because that is not something I strive for here.  It’s pretty clear where I stand because hello?  THE NAME OF THE BLOG.  But I’m not completely devoid of  a conscience and am aware that there are often other interpretations of the patent landscape that cause people not to see things my way.   Hard to believe that someone would disagree with me, I know.

Nevertheless, I put together this list of questions for some random dude my friend guy-I-internet-know my inventor:

  1. How long did it take you to get a patent on your idea, from the time you originally thought up the idea, to when your patent was issued?
  2. What items have you commercially produced using your patented invention?  If your invention is technology-based rather than product-based, what products have you brought to market using your patented technology?
  3. How have you approached the “big players” in your industry to attempt to get them to license your patent? What resistance were you met with, and how have you overcome it?
  4. What is the biggest barrier for small inventors to overcome when trying to approach the “big players” in their market?
  5. For you and your product/patent specifically, what is the single most troublesome thing about current patent reform legislation?
  6. Do you acknowledge the existence of Patent Trolls? If so, which company would you name as an example?
  7. Outside of legislation, what do you think can be done to update the patent system so that it is more inventor-friendly? This can include adjustments at the Federal level to do with the USPTO, or things at the local level, like educational events for kids.
  8. Do you think that “loser pays”-type litigation rules will hurt the small inventor? If such rules were universally adopted in the US, do you think it would make you less likely to sue a potential infringer?
  9. How much time and effort do you put in to determining if infringement actually has taken place prior to filing suit/sending a demand letter? What resources do you use, meaning do you try and reverse-engineer products or technologies to see if competitors are infringing?  What’s your due diligence process, in other words?
  10. What are your feelings about the recent failure of the Senate to pass a patent reform bill? What would you like to see in a bill?

This will be a multi-part series because that is a lot of words up there in those questions!  We’ll start with just the first two here to sort of set the stage.

So without further ado, I present to you an Interview With An Inventor, Part I:

DocFromBackToTheFuture

Note: This is not the inventor I interviewed, as far as you know.

******************************************************************

1. How long did it take you to get a patent on your idea, from the time you originally thought up the idea, to when your patent was issued?

I have quite a few patents, but I will give an example of just one, namely US Patent No. 6,782,510 which deals with content filtering, a feature which is found in many corporate email systems.  It has been cited 85 times by the PTO so I am fairly proud of it.  The invention allows an administrator to control what kind of content can be distributed, on a recipient basis, so that different policies can be used for different audiences.

I thought of the idea in late 1997, and filed January 1998. It took more than 6 years to get it issued, which is not atypical unfortunately in this business.  There is a serious problem with the PTO not performing their review fairly and timely, which costs inventors because by the time you get your patent, the technology may now be obsolete, or the market may have changed.  A perfect example is US Patent No. 8700538, which deals with letting members in a community exchange playable media, such as DVDs.  I filed for this in 2004, yet the patent took 10+ years to issue. There were a number of companies that came and went in this interval that I could have licensed and helped improve their offerings to make them more commercially viable.  The PTO delays pretty much killed the entire economic opportunity there.

2. What items have you commercially produced using your patented invention?  If your invention is technology-based rather than product-based, what products have you brought to market using your patented technology?

I do not try to commercialize all my inventions because sometimes it is just a matter of economics, meaning I don’t have access to capital that can help me hire a developer or market it in an effective/competitive way against established large companies. Even if I had a perfect email filtering program for example, there is no way I could compete against a Symantec, McAfee, Google, etc.

In other instances I *have* invested gigantic sums of my own money to commercialize inventions where the big companies are not yet present.  If you look under the company name “Patent Savant” for example you will see a number of filings made by us covering patent data acquisition systems. We spent several man-years and $$ trying to bring this to fruition but have had limited success because the law changed (which reduced the value of the product) and the market became very crowded just as we were entering.  We still have all the underlying code, tools, etc., however, and may pivot to implement a different variant in the near future.

******************************************************************

Stay tuned for Part II!

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Image of Doc from Back To The Future found here.}

 

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Interview With An Inventor, Part I

  1. I have several patents still pending after 12 years. It’s beyond any rational evaluation of patentability. It is the single most harmful thing for inventors because most need an asset to get funding to build companies.

  2. Pingback: Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls) | Techrights

  3. Pingback: Interview With An Inventor, Part II | IP Troll Tracker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s