The wide world of patents September 25 2013
So I had the idea and the sketch for this little gadget - now what? In my opinion, this idea was not worth pursuing unless I could patent it. But how in the world would I do that? I decided from the beginning that I would take baby steps to navigate this entire process – never jumping ahead and worrying about something that I would need to do or figure out in the future. One thing at a time, and at this time I needed to educate myself about patents.
I can honestly say that I had almost no knowledge about patents before beginning this process, but it's amazing what you can learn online! I immersed myself in all things patent – design vs. utility, provisional vs. non-provisional, claims, examiners, and office actions. Although I had a basic understanding of the process, I knew I needed professional help. I used ThomasNet.com to find a local patent agent, and I called him in April of 2007. I learned through him that the first step would be a "patentability search" – with a price tag of $900. Now don't get me wrong – I believed in this idea. But did I believe in it $900 worth?
This $900 would buy me the knowledge of whether or not there was any chance of patenting my idea. The search could come back that something else too similar already existed, or it could come back that no one else had ever patented anything like it. The idea had been in my head for 6 years, and I had to know.
Two months later I received my $900, 95 page patentability search results from my patent agent along with his summary. His professional opinion after conducting the search was "It is possible that a patent could be obtained. However, I believe that it will be difficult to obtain a utility patent due to the similarity with other references as listed herein. The resulting claims leading to successfully obtaining a utility patent may be quite narrow. If you feel that this device is useful and marketable, then pursuing patent protection as a defensive means could be worthwhile."
So it was "possible", might be "difficult", but could be "worthwhile". This felt like a victory!