Whether you are new to Edison Nation or a seasoned inventor, submitting your idea into our secure system is the first step in bring your idea to market. As you may know, every invention idea submitted is reviewed through a complex, eight-stage process to determine its likelihood of licensing or As Seen on TV success.
So, what is the secret? What do you need to do to achieve a G6 or more? In March, we started a blog series where we give you a look into what happens when your idea is shared with the Edison Nation review team. In this post, we are going to review stage 6 AND provide some hints and tips to get you to your next green check mark and one step closer to successfully getting your idea on store shelves.
In this post, I’ve tapped our General Counsel, Katie Foss, to dive into the world of intellectual property (IP). In addition to being the general counsel for Edison Nation, Katie is responsible for vetting submissions’ patentability and leading the IP review process once they reach Stage 6.
IP Review Process Overview
Intellectual property is at the heart of what we do here at Edison Nation. Whether or not we can close a licensing deal with a company hinges on the level of IP protection available. Innovation Search sponsors want to know that they are getting a new and innovative product, and that they are the only player in the game. Companies are less likely to pursue a product that has a lot of competition, so we attempt to find that competition ahead of time to ensure we are only delivering to sponsors those submissions that have a real chance at commercialization. For this reason, it is helpful when inventors come to us with IP, but it’s not required. If a submission lists IP, we’ll check the status of the patent or application. If not, we use the following IP review process to help identify existing competition and attempt to find existing IP in the space.
How We Conduct an IP Review
We use a variety of resources during an IP review. If an inventor lists existing IP, we use the Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website to check the status. The issue here, however, is that only published applications are available to search. This is generally true of all websites, as the USPTO will not release the information on its own site prior to publication. As a result, there may be existing IP that we cannot discover prior to that point in the process. Also, provisional patent applications are not published by the USPTO, so these are also unavailable to search. As a result, we request that inventors upload filing receipts or other patent documentation with a submission. This not only helps us understand the product or concept being presented during an IP review, but it also helps us show the value of the product or concept to the search sponsor.
If a submission has reached Stage 6 and it does not have IP, we’ll search a variety of websites listing published applications and issued patents to determine whether or not we think the product has a chance at gaining IP protection. During this search, we often begin with a general Google search to familiarize ourselves with the product. This is especially true of highly specialized or complex concepts, as we want to ensure we understand what is being presented. We will then begin searching existing IP for similar ideas. We use Google Patents, Free Patents Online, and other sites that present published applications and issued patents to the public. During our IP review, we will compare your images, descriptions, and all other available information in your submission to the specifications, claims, drawings, etc. listed in published patents and applications, and we use this information to make a determination as to whether your idea meets patent requirements.
What We Look For in an IP Review
What we look for depends upon the submission itself. We do look at each and every attachment you upload to your submission! These attachments are very useful in helping us understand your idea.
We seek to find the core function or utility of the product or concept to determine what about it, if anything, is novel and unique. Once we understand the nature of the submission, we’ll attempt to find any and all existing products and IP that relates to what the inventor is presenting. We spend considerable time analyzing the results of our search to ensure we aren’t comparing dissimilar ideas. We also filter IP results by country, as our immediate concern is patent protection in the United States.
A very straightforward product is often much easier to compare to existing products, as what you see is what you get. We will generally do an image search in conjunction with a search of published applications and issued patents as part of our IP review. These searches yield different results, and together they are fairly comprehensive. While a basic Google image search may not sound very effective, the fact is that the use of specific keywords will produce thousands of images that can be used to compare the submission to existing products in the marketplace, and these images often provide very useful insight into potential competition. We can view hundreds of products in a matter of minutes, and this helps us narrow down our findings.
Conversely, a complex product utilizing complicated mechanical, engineering, or scientific concepts will require a more in-depth analysis. These types of submissions may require us to spend some time learning about a concept to better understand it. This is crucial in that we never seek to “pass” on a submission simply because it is complicated. We value the education and experience of every inventor, and we understand that not all submissions are easily comprehended at first glance.
We also look for disclosures made to outside parties. Under current US patent statutes, disclosure of a product or concept to third parties, without having filed for patent protection, can start the clock on your idea’s patentability. For this reason, inventors must be cautious prior to filing for patent protection. Inventors are advised to always limit disclosures to third parties, and to do so only under a nondisclosure agreement or after filing a patent application.
IP and Patenting Resources
- The United States Patent and Trademark Office website is always a great place to start. There is a wealth of information regarding patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
- The USPTO offers a printable, PDF brochure. This brochure answers many common questions.
- The Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system provides IP customers a safe, simple, and secure way to retrieve and download information regarding patent application status. Please note that an application must be published, and provisional patent applications are unavailable via Public Pair.
- Google Patents is a very helpful tool in that it allows you to search keywords within published applications and issued patents.
- Free Patents Online is a great online resource for conducting a patent search.
- The Cornell University Law School website offers helpful explanations of various patent-related concepts.
The Goal of Conducting an IP Review
Our ultimate goal is to see your invention commercialized. The best way to get your idea in front of a search sponsor is to have something that matches the search criteria, is new and useful, and is capable of gaining IP protection. We try to deliver to the search sponsor the ideas that most closely match what they are looking for, and those ideas must also be something they can license and protect. Companies are always looking for the next greatest product, and we strive to get those products from our inventors. To have the best chance of success, give the sponsor something exciting that they’ve never seen before.
Common IP Pitfalls
- Third party disclosures of your unpatented idea, potentially limiting your patent protection.
- Submitting ideas that are already present in the marketplace.
- Not maintaining your patent applications or issued patents, causing them to lapse.
- Not telling Edison Nation about your IP. If we don’t know about it, we can’t use it to your benefit.
Hints and Tips
- Google your idea!
- Do a basic patent search.
- Visual aids are very helpful to us, and we appreciate all the photos, videos, and other media you upload with your submission. We look at everything.
- Tell us about your IP. Upload all USPTO filing receipts and copies of your patent information with your submission.
- Be sure to list all third-party disclosures of your unpatented idea. Knowing about it helps us determine whether or not it bars patent protection.
The next post will take a closer look at what happens during our Finalist stage, Stage 7.
We hope this information provides a bit more insight into what we look for and we look forward to reviewing YOUR idea soon! Happy Inventing!