I hope that, by 2006, I’ll have secured my place in innovation history, along side the
Method of concealing partial baldness.
Peabody, set the Way-back machine for December, 2002. The first round of my product was scheduled for launch in March. It was neat, but what I was really excited about was the vision, the 80-page Mother of All Product Roadmaps outlining all the wicked cool ways we were going to extend the system and be wildly innovative. (Sorry, but I still have to be cagey about specifics…) I approached our legal counsel, asking what parts about the new hotness had patentability. Stephen, the intellectual property (“IP”) agent, scheduled a short meeting next month during which I did the spiel. Stephen was forthright that he wasn’t sure if there was anything there, but “thanks again, and please let me know when you guys launch.” Four months later, he wanted to do another review. Someone upstairs was impressed enough that they were going to invest some more time on this. w00t!
The patenting process is arduous, expensive and tedious. I handed over all the design documents. We had three separate meetings, intended to be “brain dumps,” but there were long lags between them. From what I could tell, half the attorney time was spent identifying patentable claims, while the other half was in converting my English specification to Patentese.
Although bereft of my usual humor and footnotes, the “Field of the Invention” and “Background of the Invention,” fitting nicely on the first page, were inviting. The first sucker-punch came in the “summary” and “claims” sections. These were mind-numbingly boring. For example, the summary included a lot of sentences that began like this:
In a preferred embodiment …
The foregoing aspects and many of the attendant advantages of this invention will become more readily appreciated as the same become better understood by reference to the following detailed description, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein: …
The second one appears on page 5. When I read this the first time, my instinct was to immediately turn to the last page and calculate how much more of this pain remained. Thirty pages!
Oh, were it only that bad. In the “Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment” section, the document bogged down, throwing volleys of references to the spartan drawings in the appendix. Picthure reading scintillating text like this a hundred times:
Again, many of the same elements shown in FIGURE 5, including elements 202, 204, 206, 208, and 210, are included in the [component] 228
As this was my first, best shot at a patent, I was determined to see the application process to completion. My “co-inventors,” three of whom helped substantially, and one whose name shouldn’t have been on there, each had prior patents and, not surprisingly, were not providing timely feedback. Who could blame them when there were dozens of pages of claims:
The method of Claim 2, in which the flobnotz discombobulates when heated to 212°F.
The method of Claim 73, in which the ferkle defenestrates.
Somehow this all made it through — perhaps they just acceded to whatever was printed rather than subject themselves to the torture? — and the patent application was finally submitted in October of last year. Stephen, the attorney, told me it’s typical to not hear back anything for at least two years. (“Nobody else wants to read this, either?”) As a comparable, I noticed my Gilette Mach3 Turbo (not to be confused with the Gilette Mach3 Power) razor refills have at least 18 patents for them. One, for “Razor cartridge with movable blades” was granted 26 months after application. Stay tuned.
(By the way, the 🙁 is trademarked.)