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What is the use of patenting?

thomaschadenga's Avatargold

What is the purpose in this day and age of information abundance? I believe the whole reason patents were invented was because there was no way to search for and verify originality of ideas, since it was pre-internet and google etc. Nowadays you can google similar products or ideas to yours and get a comprehensive list. If say for example an inventor posts his invention on a public repository like facebook, can that not serve as a valid way of verifying that the poster is the original inventor of the idea? After all posts on facebook, for rxample, are timestamped and facebook is a reputable, reliable source of information, is it not?

My thinking is it is no longer necessary to file a patent when you can prove originality of an idea from online sources. Any thoughts?

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countofmontecristo's Avatar

Hi Thomas-

Welcome to EN and that's a zinger of a question you have there.

Let’s set the groundwork first.What IS a patent?

A patents sole purpose is to PREVENT others from making, using or selling the patented innovation.

It is more or less a short term monopoly granted by governments in exchange of releasing the innovation back to the public when the patent terms expire.Barring any follow-on patents or others, this is commonly the case.Once your term expires, the technology or innovation becomes public domain as it is no longer protected by the patent.Trademarks are very different animals as are trade secrets.

So why do Google, Microsoft, IBM and thousands of other huge corporations file patents almost every day?Quite simply, to keep the competition at bay.Patents are considered ‘barriers to entry’ and are roadblocks that companies (and individuals) must face to get their products to market.

Why should anyone even ‘care’ about patents in this so-called modern day and age?Look at it this way.One day you come up with a really, really great idea.Then you spend all kinds of time and money to bring this product to market.You are so excited, as your dream is finally being realized and there it is on the store shelf and orders are coming in by the hundreds.

Then, the next day, you get a certified letter from a law firm with a cease and desist letter, stating that your new awesome product is infringing on one or more patents.You can sometimes bargain with the opposing company and hope they grant you a fairly priced license, but not always.Sometimes they just want you and your stuff… gone. That’s the power of a well-written, highly defensible patent.It’s like the ‘crane technique’ in the old movie ‘The Karate Kid’. When used properly, no one can defend against it.

I hope that makes it a little clearer as to why patents have been around so long, and they are not going away any day soon.; )

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thomaschadenga's Avatargold

@Ralph. Thanks for your comprehensive comment. What you said makes plenty sense. My gwneral idea of patents was it served as a way to verify that a person is the original inventor of an idea. It was a public, official record of a person's idea which is timestamped to prove the person came up with it on such a date. Patents are searchable and are public records. 

Now a service like facebook if I post my pics of my invention there, they will be timestamped and under my profile for facebook, a reputable organisation. Would I not have any legal claim to my idea as originally thought of by me because of that public record? Woudn't I be able to prove that I came up with an idea first by pointing to that record on facebook? Back in the days before the internet it would have been difficult to prove this, hence the need for a patent - a public record which is timestamped by a reputable organisation, in that case a patent office. 

It feels like its not as important now as it was before the internet.

Ralph Machesky
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thomaschadenga's Avatargold

@Jimmys thanks. That does make more sense now. Its all about going through a lawyer.

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chappy75's Avatar


Great topic... I have a couple takes on this. In studying Elon Musk and his move to have an "open source patent" where anybody can use his technology I have come to appreciate a couple things. Musk opened his patents because he was frustrated with the growth pace of the industry. 

There are are 2 structures here. 

1) Protectionism/Capitalism - in which having something that others don't have elevates your social status.

2) Socialism - Whereby creating something that betters the whole raises your social status. Where socialism, at the onset, seems like the more altruistic ism, internally it contradicts itself and motivates the society to create in return for status. Even Social equity is capitalism and sometimes, most corrupt.

So Musk was so far ahead of his time with Tesla that industry didn't conform quickly. The fuel dollars and petroleum industry that is so closely tied to the automobile industry would like nothing more that for for Tesla to fail. Musk continues to invent and create though with solar rooftiles and roads along with his fascination with colonizing Mars. Musk also says that a company should have no use for patents... It should be constantly innovating and let people use their past discoveries to open the stage to even newer discoveries. 

Catch me if you can!

Charlie Lumsden
Jimmy's Band
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jdowney9000's Avatargold

USC only contains 54 titles

only 1 of which applies to patents: USC 35

Of USC 35: only 111, 112, and 113 ore most pertinent to a standard utility nonprovisional patent.


CFR 37 only has three main sections pertinent to the same utlility nonprovisional patent.

Sections: 1.61, 1.71, and 1.81

Just fill those out; pray for positive arbitration where the words like "adequate" are used; and you've yourself a patent-arooni

If you do it right, then they gotta grant it. Iz the laghw.

Charlie Lumsden
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jdowney9000's Avatargold

Who has two Ctrl keys and likes [.pdf]'s?

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inovate's Avataree_badge

Jacob, them three numbers are all you need to fill out for Non-Provisional patent? That is cool Thank you.     

O and I do have two Ctrl and like pdf's what is a pdfj's?

Chappy, Wonder is Elon Musk is like Eddie Murphy in coming to America? "I renounce my throne"?

Jacob Downey
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larrybgood's Avatar

Thomas, I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this, but congress made a major change in 2013 as per the application of patents and rights to said patent.  It is now a "first to file" system rather than a "first to invent" system.

The scenario you outlined in your OP about positing your unique invention on facebook to prove you are the originator, using FBs timestamp as proof, is a modern day version of what is/was called the "Poor Man's Patent" aka PMP.  

The old version of the PMP was to put your invention on paper, put it in a sealed envelope, mail it to yourself and never open it until you would need to prove yourself in a court.  Same idea, but instead you use the postal date stamp to prove you originated the invention or at least prove you put it on paper on that certain date.  Even today, this is a far better method as no one can see your invention plans unless they have access to the envelope.  On FB, everyone can see it.


The PMP is an "old wives tale", it never was recognized legally for any intellectual property as far as I know.  And even if it was, with the patent law changed to a "first to file" system, PMP won't work today.

I'm not a lawyer or an expert.  Just conveying info I ahve found on this forum and other sites.

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jruppert's Avatargold

Hi there all,  just commenting on the use of patenting.

I recently had an infomercial company  running a website, trying to sell one of my products,  I just happen to run across the site,  because as an inventor we are always browsing the internet for someone or company that may be trying to knock off your product.

Well I happen to click on an image of my product, and guess what  they were trying to sell my tool,  a full blown site, order taking, pitch etc...

If I didn't have my patents and trademark in place,  I would have been out of luck,  but since I did I was able to let them know they were infringing on my patent and trademark,  now the site is down and no longer running.

So what good is a patent,  I think this is a pretty good example.

My two cents!

Michelle Sartori
Jacob Downey
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jdowney9000's Avatargold

Nice job Jonathan, vigilance in diligence.

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shmidster's Avatar

Hi Jonathan,

Btw, sometimes it is a good idea to talk with those companies maybe ask for a face to face meeting and then negotiate a deal to work together and ask for a royalty.Without lawyers just send them an email. They may still want to work with you if the product tested well.

Also in the future it may pay to wait a while. If the other company is successful with your product they are more likely to work with or offer a significant settlement 

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rharker's Avatar

There is another important function of patents:

To broadcast to the world the details of a new technology or invention ... technology transfer from trade secrecy to the public.  In exchange the owner of the patent has the exclusive right to commercialize the invention for the term of the patent in the jurisdiction of the patent..

Without patents new technologies would be buried in layers of secrecy and not see the light of day.

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