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MMD > Archives > May 2002 > 2002.05.05 > 06Prev  Next

Value of Patenting Ideas
By Andy LaTorre

From what I understand about patents and such (having been involved
in an application many years ago), one could privately do whatever one
wants with any patented idea as long as one does not sell it.  So if I
wanted to develop a laser perforator using Mr. Gerety's patented ideas,
then I don't believe anyone can stop me as long as I don't sell it.

Now if I use the machine to do something, like make perforated player
piano rolls, then I believe that no one can stop me just because I use
patented technology to make the rolls. I am not selling the patented
idea, just using it. Does anyone agree or disagree with my opinion?

I personally do not see any value of patenting ideas (ideas from us
ordinary hobbyists) unless one has one of the following:

a) The inventor has full financial backing and can immediately go into
massive production before any other entrepreneur even gets started.

b) The inventor desires to sell the patent to a financially backed
manufacturing outfit and is agreeable to let the outfit handle all the
manufacturing, distributing and marketing problems for a small royalty
percentage in the single digits.  (And it is worth it!)

I was involved in trying to patent the original 7 LED spinning moving
message display about 20 years ago when I recognized that
microprocessors and memory could combine to make this novel advertising
display. I even had a demonstration unit using the old 8008 Intel
microprocessor chip.

My attorney did a patent search (after receiving $$$ from me) and came
up with results that seemed very promising.  He could only find several
previous patents with old technology and very dissimilar.

Then he asked, "Would I pay more $$$ for a preliminary application?",
which I did. The patent office rejected my application and included
several previous patents that my attorney did not "discover".

Then the attorney asked for more $$$ to continue and to counter the
examiner's remarks. I could see this going on and on with an associated
loss of $$$.

So, although this is only one experience, we see who really makes out
in the patent game.

One other patent story: I was told by my attorney that the person who
invented the fold-up stroller (I believe it was) got a patent. While he
pondered and tried to get backing to manufacture some of them, another
entrepreneur with heavy backing set up a manufacturing operation,
produced and sold thousands (or was it hundreds of thousands?).  When
the inventor found out about it, he went to court and all he could get
was a "decease and desist" order with no compensation for lost
business.  Lost business can not be proven and therefore is not

The opinions stated above could be wrong since I don't have that much
experience in patent law.  I certainly would not mind any corrections
to my thinking.

Andy LaTorre

(Message sent Sun 5 May 2002, 21:48:11 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ideas, Patenting, Value

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