Patents for dummies


Verified Military
Dec 4, 2006
Any of you folks have advice on drafting and applying for patents on the cheap?

I've got a marketable idea I think could turn a buck but will probably either have to farm out production or sell manufacturing/distribution rights to pull off

I know we've got some gear whores here so all advice is welcome.
Unfortunately, there is nothing cheap about patent applications.

I haven't obtained one (yet), however I decided back in 1996 to forgo going through an attorney to do the search. They were shining me on about an initial "consultation" in which they would perform a "preliminary" patent search for me, all for the low, low price of $800. What they probably would have done is a more extensive search, coming up with what is known as prior art, and then kept stringing me along as they revealed more information, for more money of course.

Instead, I took that $800, flew out to D.C. and spent a couple of days at the PTO office in Crystal City, taught myself how to do an old fashioned patent search, and came up with reams of data for not just one idea I had, but three.

And I also was able to tour the Smithsonian on an off day.

It's a little easier to do patent searches yourself now, with the internet, but I would suggest you get your hands dirty doing it the old fashioned way, either at one of the 23 PTO depositories spread throughout the country or at the PTO itself.

In the end, though, you'll probably have to go through a patent attorney to help you write the actual patent. It's complicated, and time consuming. You really have to cover a lot of bases in order to protect all the features that may be inherent in your design.

Speaking of which, what type of patent are your going for? There are 3 types, Utility, design, and plants. There are a couple of good books out there, one in particular that I'll give you title when I have some time.
Here's the latest edition of a book that I found useful, it's more of a primer on intellectual property law and some of the requirements when it comes to obtaining patents.

Depending on the product you're looking to market, you might be better off not going the patent route, although if it is the type of widget that is best served by licensing through a manufacturer, you might not have a choice.
A patent is only as good as your ability to enforce it, read sue the company that trys to rip it off.
Unless you can afford a good legal team all you have is a fancy bit of paper. Also IIRC all the have to do is change 10% off the actual design to get around it.

If its a piece of gear you will also need detailed sketches of it.
What I do is license designs, do the prototyping and initial builds and then have someone else build it for which I normally recieve 20-30% of the profit on each unit sold. A lot easier for me. Also be aware that approaching a company with your design is enough to see it in their catalouge next season.
It'd be a design patent. The idea is to license the design to a tactical nylon company (I know of one in particular that'd be a good fit and takes solicitations), but I don't want to pitch them a product without at least some protection.