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Can You Patent Something from the Store, but Used Differently?

blackandgold's Avatar

Here is my story.  A have a vehicle and found a company that sells a screen that covers some of the air vents. The screens were flimsy, so I decided to see if I could get a stronger more durable screen to cover the air vents.  I decided to purchase the metal screen material at Lowes.  This worked so well, that some friends asked me to make the same metal screens for them.  

I have since been selling these online and they have really done pretty well for my one person fabrication and online business.  I took this screen to a retail store and they decided to give it a try and sell in the store.  They asked if I had a patent and I told them I bought the screen from Lowes and simply cut it out to fit the vehicle.  Now there is a center screen that requires careful procedures to install that I came up with, otherwise the screen doesn't stay installed.  The cut of the screen is unique that I've come up with and the procedure for installation is unique.

So my question is, because I bought this metal screen at Lowes does that mean that its in the public domain and public knowledge?  Can I patent my unique cut of the publicly purchased metal screen with my unique installation instructions on a vehicle anyone can buy could probably go and buy this same screen?  The center screen is different as this took me try and error to figure out how to cut and install.  Or am I wasting my time with a patent on all of this?

Thanks for any guidance or advice you can give.

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magurn's Avatar

Hi Mark and welcome to Edison Nation!

It is our policy not to provide legal guidance on the patenting process. We would suggest you speak with a patent attorney to assess your options.

Ralph Machesky
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kabuj's Avataree_badge


Sounds like  at least a "method" patent is possible (assuming there is no prior art) and  perhaps even a utility patent (with method claim(s)) might be possible for your improvement portion. As others mentioned you probably need legal assistance. NOT to alarm you, but you may want to move fast on this given the current patent laws (first to file). You have 12 months after public disclosure to file your utility application (non-provisional). You may not know all the terms I have used here, but you should research and get that legal help. I would also watch out for that "retail store", as they (or anyone else) could undercut you and file for a patent first.

I'm not an attorney, nor do I play one on T.V..

Best of luck!

Ralph Machesky
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blackandgold's Avatar

Michelle, sorry and thanks for that clarification.  I was hoping someone may had prior experience.

KJ thanks for your thoughts on this.... more thinking for me to do.  

Thank you all


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crystaldiane's Avatar

First, congrats on selling a product! That is where most of us hope to go. Please invest in yourself and get the book from Roger Brown, Common Sense Inventing. You may after reading his book decide that your current little business is just the ticket. There is many more than one way to reach a goal - patents are expensive and time consuming and far from guaranteed.

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countofmontecristo's Avatar

I concur on the book investment.

Probably the wisest $20-30 purchase one could make.

You can thank Roger later. ; )

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larrybgood's Avatar

From what I understand, if you've been selling this for a year or more, you cannot patent it any longer.  

Now I have something to ask you...

Why on earth would someone want to put a screen on a heater/AC vent in their car/vehicle? Most, if not all, vehicles these days have a cabin filter that screens out dirt, debris, bugs, etc from incoming air before it gets to the vent tunnels.  As long as this cabin filter is changed often enough as needed, it works.  

By not not changing the cabin filter and using a vent screen instead, it would cause problems later down the road as the vent tunnel would get coated with grime and would also start to fill up with debris.  This would cause dirtier air, smelly air and possibly rattling debris.

I'm scratching my head on this one.

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jdowney9000's Avatargold


That's a fine evaluation of the problems related to placing a screen over your dash vents. 

Your comment caused me to read the blog, and try to see the description in a different angle.

Here's what I came up with; 

Maybe it's to keep things from falling in the vents. Like the vents that defrost the windshield.

Kenneth Rainbolt
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