Thursday, March 30, 2006

This Week's installment of American Inventor Commentary

The thing missing on American Inventor or at least the segments broadcast is any discussion of the patentability of the inventions. Many of the inventions that have got through to the second round are just not patentable.

And the producers of the show are not going to give a one million dollar advance on royalties to an invention that cannot be protected. Why? Because if the invention is not protectable, any number of competitors will simply copy the device potentially undercutting the manufacturer chosen by the producers.

Actually, I shouldn't be so harsh; there is a chance that an unprotectable invention can be successful. But the chances are just so much smaller than with an invention that can be protected with a strong broad patent.

The panel of judges just don't seem to get the importance of protection. Tonight a nice old lady with paper sheets was passed on to the next round. I would be shocked if the product or the method of using the product could be protected. I suspect with a few minutes or the help of my expert patent searcher I could show that a significant portion of the inventions that advanced to the next round over the last three weeks are not even novel. In other words, they were likely invented by others before the new inventors decided to appear on the show.

What the show needs is a patent attorney judge to render an opinion on the protectability of the inventions. I really expected to see one among the panel. Instead they appear to have a businessman, a couple of marketing types, and a very successfully inventor/engineer. While Doug Hall, the inventor, comes close to filling the role an attorney would fill, he isn't a patent attorney and he just doesn't approach the decision of who to pass the same way a patent attorney would.

So Simon, if you by some strange coincidence you come to read this, I am available ;>)

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

American Inventor Take III - the thin line

Tonight there was one inventor featured in Chicago that had spent the last 26 years working on and promoting his invention, bulletball. 26 YEARS! And the invention a sort of cross between ping pong and knock hockey just wasn't that good. 26 YEARS!! He had quit his job; ruined at least one marriage; and lost his house.

What is even sadder than this guy's story is that it is all too common. I have known inventors who have spent everything they had chasing the dream. There is a fine line between the dedication and devotion needed to make an invention successful in the marketplace and going so far that you lose sight of all other aspects of one's life.

The one thing to always keep in mind is that an invention should merely be a means for an inventor to enhance his/her life not destroy it and often when an invention gets in the way of what's really important it should often be sidelined.

If your spouse is against spending tens of thousands of dollars on an invention; the question you must ask is this invention worth ruining my marriage over? By the way, marriages fall apart over these kind of things all to often.

Some inventors spend so much on their inventions, such as Mr. Bulletball above, that they will live in virtual poverty for extremely long periods of time. Even if they eventually make it, is a few years of wealth worth the years of poverty? Remember life is finite, no inventor should put all aspects of his/her life on hold to blindly devote everything to his/her invention.

I guess this brings me to my next bit of advice: enjoy the journey. So often we look exclusively to the future and the rewards that await us then and are out of reach in the present. Inventors are, of course, famous for this always planning for and searching out the next big break. And the sad truth is that in most cases the inventions will never be successful.

I do not suggest that inventors do not plan for the future. In fact, failing to plan is a recipe for disaster. However, inventors should reveal and take great joy in the journey and the mini successes along the way. When you first conceive the invention, revel in it. When you built the first prototype sit back and congratulate yourself. When the patent application is filed, go out to dinner and celebrate. When the patent issues, throw a party. When you get in to see a representative from a major company you would like to license your invention, realize that you have made it further than most inventors in just getting the meeting.

And perhaps most importantly, know when to say its over and let it go. Also realize that with ultimate failure, the process need not be so. You will have learned so much that can be applied later in life to the next great idea. The knowledge gained from the process can far outweigh the ultimate failure. Believe me, I have been there and done that.

In the early nineties, I founded a Mountain Bike component company built around a handlebar of my unique design. Luckily, I was single at the time so that I did not have to worry about family time and family finances. In the end, everything fell apart and I walked away owning almost nothing more than the shirt on my back. Some might be inclined to think the three years I pursued this venture was ultimately wasted. But the knowledge and experience gained during those three years has made me the person I am today.

For example, many people fear starting their own businesses because of the uncertainty in contrast to a regular paycheck and because of this they never follow their dream. I have not such fear; I have been to the bottom and while not particularly fun, it wasn't as bad as fear would lead you to believe. I know more about the practical side of startup businesses and bootstrapping than your typical MBA graduate. In short, my experiences in the early nineties have helped make my practice successful today. Always keep in mind failure can be the manure from which success grows (wow what a terrible metaphor).

So to end: Chase you dream but do smartly and try to enjoy the chase along the way.

Till next time...

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Leyendecker & Lemire, LLC Client Northanger Productions Roll Cameras on Independent Film

Leyendecker & Lemire client Northanger Productions, LLC is an independent film company based in Mesa Arizona and brain child of author Quentin Dodd and Guy Davis. Northanger Productions is currently in the middle of filming in its independent film “Zorg and Andy”, which is being dubbed a supernatural comedy. The movie follows a hapless college student’s adventures in his attempt to recover an ancient idol he naively gave away in an attempt to secure a date, and is currently being filmed on several locations in Indiana, including Earlham College. For more information concerning the filming of their current production please see the following article. For additional information on Northanger Productions, LLC please visit their web site. Leyendecker & Lemire, LLC represents Northanger in content licensing and copyright clearance issues.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

American Inventor Take II

Yeah, I am watching the show. After all, I am a patent attorney. Hokey show? Sure, but strangely enjoyable. Hopefully, the show will inspire those on the sidelines to create and go for their dreams. After all, many of you can do better than many of these inventions.

One moment I would like to highlight was where the engineer/inventor judge told the African American inventor that her invention already existed. She informed the judges they she spent over $12,000 on the invention with one of those companies that advertise on late night TV and have an 800 number. All she got from the experience was a book (I have seen many of these books and they are essentially worthless) and a narrow patent. The engineer inventor basically told that those companies steal from people.

While I cannot definitively say these companies steal from people, I will say they give you very little for the huge sums of money. I will reiterate do not use invention promotion companies if you truly believe in your invention. I will not name names here, but if the company advertises on late night or low budget TV or the radio avoid them. If the company uses buzz words like "we will submit your invention to industry", avoid them. If they make the whole process seem easy, avoid them.

Enough said. Good Night!

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

PATENT TROLLS!

The Denver Post had an article this past Sunday discussing the fearsome “patent troll” (you may want to read the article before proceeding). Apparently, a Patent Troll is anyone who (i) had a great idea, (ii) reduced the invention to practice, (iii) filed a patent application, (iv) received a valid United States Patent, and then (v) had the gall to request a giant multi-national company to pay for the right to use the invention. Oh, how terrible.

Doesn’t the enterprising, entrepreneurial, forward thinking and intelligent independent inventor know better than to THINK about how to solve problems that confront business, society and industry! How dare they?! After all this is AMERICA and how can we permit the small guy (or gal) to be on a level playing field with the multi-national corporation!

Is it really fair that one person (or a small group), who beat out a huge corporation with thousands of engineers and designers and a multimillion dollar R&D budget in resolving a problem of at least some significance (as evidenced by the fact the huge corporation saw fit to implement the invention), expects to derive a little wealth from his (her) ingenuity? Don’t these trolls realize that the multimillion dollar salaries are reserved for upstanding corporate CEOs that include such pillars of community as Ken Lay, Joe Naccio and Jeffery Skilling in their ranks?

This is AMERICA! We can’t expect the huge corporations to compete with the pitiful little troll. It’s like asking dinosaurs to compete against tiny pesky mammalian rodents. It’s like asking the King to grant independence to a bunch of silly men dressed as Native Americans parading around Boston Harbor drinking coffee instead of tea. It’s like allowing a few hundred ungrateful students to gather in a far eastern square and protest the oppressive policies of their government. IF these trolls are permitted to continue, what will become of this Nation?

(Huge Corporation): NOT FAIR, NOT FAIR, NOT FAIR! And if you don’t do as I want, I am going to shower Washington with hundreds of high paid lobbyists, I am going fill the campaign coffers of all the congressman and women I can buy, and I am going to wage a vicious PR campaign to paint you as Beelzebub’s minion and me as God’s angelic right hand. We must stifle competition at all costs!

And is this the one sided fight where David is killing the poor hapless Goliath. Not on your life! Some of the very corporations that complain about trolls are some of the biggest players of the patent game. Do you think they think twice about squashing a start-up that is infringing one of their thousands of patents? You just don’t hear about it; the squashed and penniless cannot afford to pay their PR firm.

OK, my sarcastic rant is over. Time to get back to doing some work. Who knows maybe the very application I am working on is one that will bring a corporate giant to their knees. Viva La Troll!

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