Patent Article by William S. Ramsey, P.C.

What Should I Invent?

"What should I invent?" This is a question which a patent attorney never hears. We deal with inventors who already have made inventions. They are pursuing the Great American Dream, to profit from onešs creativity. They invent first, patent second. After some fourteen years in the patenting business I have the conceit that I give one answer to the question inventors never ask.

Invent What You Know?

Wešve all been taught in high school English to write what you know. Inventors often invent in areas that they know, that is, areas which they deal with in everyday life.

The only problem is, many other inventors have recognized the same needs and responded with inventions to deal with these needs.

For example, our inventor may have noticed a noxious smell in the bathroom and sets about to invent a ventilated bathroom. He or she will soon learn that literally hundreds of others have received patents to solve the problem. Inventors have ventilated the room, the water closet, the toilet bowl and the soil pipe, in a wide variety of ingenious ways. The problem remains – but our inventor must be quite innovative to succeed in this well mined area – all of the obvious and easy solutions have been tried.

Other examples include eyeglasses and eyeglass frames. People have been using eyeglasses for hundreds of years. A lot of different designs have been devised. Our inventor shouldnšt be surprised if his or her first spectacle ideas are in fact quite old.

Similar comment may apply to golf putters. Every golfer knows that half of the strokes in a good game are on the putting green. Clearly the perfect putter is not yet available. But an enormous number of attempts have been patented. Your new putter will have to be pretty innovative to distinguish from the many predecessors.

Invent A Package.

If I could whisper one word in an inventoršs ear it would be "packaging." There is a continuing need for innovation in this field. Each of the never-ending stream of new products requires suitable packaging. Specifications for packaging continually evolve and change with the need for tamper-resistant food and pharmaceutical packaging, and the growth of environmental awareness. Packaging standards change with time, constantly providing opportunity for innovation.

Packages can be invented with a minimum of equipment. If you have a sheet of paper you can invent an envelope. If you have a piece of cardboard you can invent a box. Take a close look at your junk mail today before you throw it out. You may be surprised at the innovative and patented features in the envelopes which clutter your mailbox.

U.S. Patent Number 5,205,476 protects the latch device for a disposable clamshell container. It really is a narrow patent which doesnšt cover much. Is it a valuable invention? Well, my family certainly has done its bit in making the Big Mac a successful product for McDonalds.

U. S. Patent Number 5,598,728 covers a security case with a tamper-resistant mechanism used for merchandise. Again this is a patent with rather narrow claims but, like all patents, its value is determined by the value of the product or service it protects. In this case the worth probably is quite substantial as the cases are used by Blockbuster to contain DVD disks.

"But just a minute, Bill" you may be thinking. "Your examples required insight into the future needs of the mailing, fast food, and film rental industries. This is hard work." Well, I never said it would be easy.


William S. Ramsey is a local attorney who may be reached at 410-740-2225 or email: billramsey1@comcast.net. Not Legal Advice