The Improvement Patent
To be an inventor, you don't always have to pioneer something completely new. Sometimes your view and your passion about something can make it better.
An Initial Synopsis: How Inventors Can Iterate Their Way To Success
Invention vs. Innovation... it has been a discussion (controversy, even) for decades.
Can inventors achieve success by iterating on an existing idea, patent or even product? Is it legal?
Preexisting concepts and products are essentially a foundation, akin to the way everything we do, make and have today is simply the foundation for tomorrow.
It's a forward-thinking world we live in, almost to the point where we hardly appreciate, nevermind cherish where we are.
But that's a good thing - mostly, at least.
It's good that we strive for greater heights because we realize that humans can continue to do more.
As an inventor, that 'more' is what cultivates your next steps. Everything you see is merely a springboard.
So can you look at today's product or patent and think, "Hey, that's a great idea...but I can make it better!"
In short, yes, you definitely can.
That's why your old black & white 150lb Zenith is now a 65" 4K OLED Smart TV that weighs 22 lbs and hangs on your wall; that's why automobiles have become extensions of the native digital functionality we are so accustomed to.
In fact, there is even a class of patents designed for just this: Improvement Patents.
When coming up with a new invention, you simply don't need to re-invent the wheel. Most patents issued today are Improvement Patents.
To put it simply, a majority of the patenting process is designed to modify the wheel so that it performs better. Hence, snow tires (for one).
Patent Infringement And Improvement Patents
Patent infringement is a vague and cloudy region of the law.
Think of the company or individual who owns a patent as a country which stands alone, recognized to be sovereign in and of itself.
In order to protect this country, a highly skilled team of guards (patent attorneys) stands watch over the land.
Copyright infringement might be viewed as overthrowing the kingdom, while the Improvement Patent would represent the expansion of that territory.
Either way it is viewed, it most often comes down to a skirmish between high-priced mercenaries (patent attorneys) who eventually negotiate safe passage for a percentage of the “taxes” collected in the newly recognized region.
Law is almost always a subjective interpretation of a set of rules, and most often the margin of perceived violations can be razor thin.
The War at the Razor’s Edge
When it comes to patent law and battles over infringement, a medically related lawsuit lasting from 1974 until 2012, might be considered the modern day version of the 100 years war.
Another medical invention struggle hit the conflict charts with a $21 billion dollar damage claim in 2015.
It was the Battle of the Razor’s Edge, waged over two continents and lasting several years which can be viewed as an example of three clearly defined facts:
1. It is possible to spend $750 million on R&D for a razor blade improvement.
2. The cost of shaving can instantly jump higher than a Kangaroo with a super sized energy drink.
3. It is technically not considered a crime to produce a razor blade for a dime and charge $3
I’m Here to Pick a Fight
If the patent you are seeking is one that you feel may impact the world in a very positive way, “you may fight and your patent may die…...but many years from now… when you are lying in bed, you will never know the true taste of invention.”
When it comes to defending your beliefs as an inventor, your passion and your brave heart will require you to eventually “pick a fight.”
If an invention does not burn strongly enough inside your chest, then it was never worth fighting for.
Inventors must possess true passion.
Patent Posturing - A Passion Power Play
Amazingly, there is no true rule of thumb which can be used to measure the precise percentage that an invention is required to differ from an existing patent in order to be considered for an improvement patent.
What “is” and what is “perceived to be” are more often than not, two points on a map so far apart, you might need several pieces of paper fused together to illustrate that distance.
Patent wars are waged in the mind. If your passion for your invention or “modification” (better never to use this term), is such that you seem just crazy enough to wrestle with corporate giants, one of three things is likely to happen:
1. Your Improvement Patent will be feared and the giant will flee.
2. Your Improvement Patent will impress the behemoth, who will join you and honor your idea.
3. Your Patent will agitate Mr. Jumbo, who will provide the legal equivalent of a “beat down.”
And Now For Something Completely Different
One of the many wonders of the enlightened world of invention is that nothing should come as a complete surprise.
For example, if you notice during your typical day that bag balm, patented for use on dairy cow udders, helps bald people grow hair, you will be held accountable.
Your punishment based on historical patent fact would be the awarding of a completely new patent.
The irony that an invention is only recognized as such by the guidelines of usage, provides a massive window of opportunity for many brilliant re-discoverers to crawl through.
Imagine how upset the makers of a nighttime cold medicine might be if it were discovered that their stuffy head, so you can rest concoction, was actually a more efficient, less costly alternative to gasoline engines.
The new inventor would be heralded as the genius who changed the world.
Aside from a few minor setbacks, like waking up with the occasional horse’s head next to you and never wanting to start your own car for the rest of your life, things would certainly be on the way up.
Finding the Balance
There is a recognized measure of operating at the appropriate level of passion and drive as an inventor.
If your seemingly tireless obsession with patenting are causing the "writing checks" which your body, mind or assets can’t cash, then you may need to dial it down a notch.
A healthy desire to bring a new product to market involves careful research to avoid patent infringement, checking who probable opponents might be, with respect to possible litigation and creating a “pros and cons” list.
Dreaming is something done in the inventing and developing stages and all senses need to be alert and functioning when deciding if a patent makes sense.
Checking the Priorities Prior to Departing on the Enterprise
An idea for altering an existing patent for a “Cat Sweater” in order to render it more fashion savvy, may sound like a perfectly sound business strategy for about as long as it takes to complete the reading of this sentence.
Those who are willing to risk years in potential litigation, possible financial ruin and devastating personal sacrifices of time in order for “Bootsy” to look simply stunning on her next cat holiday outing, are represented by a small portion of the population.
As a rule, when it comes to measuring the merit of whether or not to pursue a patent, there is one saying which may fit best.
The entire time you are on the Enterprise, you must be the First Officer with sharp enough ears to listen to the voice of true logic.
It will only be possible through enlightenment, to carefully analyze the equation set forth in this universally accepted law: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. That remains the “stuff” true inventors are made of.