I’ve recently come up with a new category of furniture. As odd as it sounds, I think one day it could be as common as a coffee table or a bookshelf. My question is how should I proceed from here? I’m new to furniture design so I’m hoping some of you may be able to help me.
The way I see it, I have two options. I can try to license the design or I can start a company to produce the furniture myself. My only concern is that as soon as I start showing the designs, anyone will be able design around it. Is this a common concern and is there anything I can do about it? I just want to capitalize on the opportunity as best as I can.
Would the first person to design a bookshelf have been able to patent it? or am I just being naive? Thank you in advance for any replies.
If you can prove to a patent Examiner that your “new” product is not just a combination of exiting “art” (ideas) you may qualify for a Utility Patent. Once you have the patent it is up to YOU to enforce it; meaning that you will be financially responsible (spelled; l-a-w-y-e-r-s) to make anyone using your patent to stop.
The alternative to a Design Patent is called a Design Patent. A Design Patent essentially covers the outward appearance of an object; car bodies, chairs, tables, toasters, computer peripherals, sex toys, etc.
All you have to do to get around a Design Patent is not make your product exactly like the other one.
I don’t think it should be a problem to prove the uniqueness of the idea. It has a function, serves a unmet need, and after a few weeks of searching (both the patent office website and other sites in general) I can’t find anything remotely similar. I’m awaiting a call back from a patent lawyer so hopefully they can shed some light. Even if I have a utility patent, someone could just change the design and get their own design patent, correct?
Assuming it is economically viable to go through with the patent, how should I proceed from there? Since it truly is a unique category of furniture, I don’t really have any doubts it will be copied. (It really is the equivalent of a coffee table, bookshelf, etc… so I’m sure there could be numerous variations of the same basic function.)
I just don’t know how to get it produced the quickest, so as to have it out there, at least for a little while, before other designers come up with similar concepts.
Unless you have substantial capital, your best bet is to find a manufacturer and take a royalty. Despite the obvious costs and difficulty of starting up production and distributing a product (a lot of great ideas have been killed by crappy implementation), patent enforcement is phenomenally expensive. If your idea is really the dog’s bollocks and revolutionizes the furniture industry, you’ll get knocked off right and left. (I’m assuming you’ve invented something really groundbreaking. If it’s an electric ass scratcher or something, you probably don’t have much to worry about.) Taking a single patent infringement case to court could easily cost 6 figures, and take a couple years. If you can’t afford to do that, you essentially lose by default.
No. A utility patent trumps a design patent. If you have a utility patent on widgets, nobody else can make a widget, no matter what it looks like. However, you can get a design patent on a wheel, provided your wheel doesn’t look like anyone else’s wheel.
I will post some more info regarding the piece once I figure out how to proceed.
I’ll have to do some more research regarding the patent. I think I could use one, I just don’t know if the costs would outweigh the benefits in the end. (If nothing else, I could file a provisional just to get started)
I will probably look into finding a manufacturer and try to get some kind of royalty as Scott suggested. Once I get a few prototypes, I’ll probably go to a few trade shows etc. If anyone has any suggestions on where to go, I’d love to hear them(or if I should go about it a different way). I’m starting to come up with numerous designs for the same basic piece. I can’t imagine what some of you more talented designers could come up with. (As I said earlier, I’m new to furniture design.)
Thanks again for all the good replies and I’ll post back when I have some more info.
The alternative to a Design Patent is called a Design Patent.
Huh?!? oops. … a UTILITY patent.
A utility patent trumps a design patent.
patent enforcement is phenomenally expensive.
when you have your patent and are not worried about copycats?
Patent, or not, you always have to “worry” about infringement; it’s hard enough to be creative, build a manufacturing business, market, and sell your product. There are plenty of stories about start-ups that were sunk by litigation in an attempt to enforce their patent “rights.”
In a sense, it’s the Golden Rule; those that have the gold, make the rules.
did you share your idea with more experienced furniture designers?
I haven’t yet. I don’t have a design background (don’t disregard my posts because of that) so I don’t have an extensive contact list to draw upon. I’ve talked to close friends and family regarding it. Thank you for the suggestion. I will try and find someone in the business to talk this over with.
I am not saying this is the case here, but it has happened quite often that a revolutionary idea turned out to be not that revolutionary after all.
I don’t know if I would call it revolutionary. It’s just something that I think A LOT of people would have a use for. I’ve done an extensive amount of research and I haven’t seen anything like this. If I had, I would have already bought one
So it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve had some health issues and have been in and out of the hospital, so needless to say some of my plans have been put on hold. I came across this today and wanted to get some opinions.
To summarize, if they pick your idea then you get $2500 up front and you will receive an annuity of;
7.5% of net revenues paid to Edison Nation (if any); plus
50% of licensing revenues paid to Edison Nation (if any); plus
40% of assignment revenues paid to Edison Nation (if any); plus
4% of brand revenues paid to Edison Nation (if any)
It doesn’t sound like a lot but on the plus side there is literally no financial risk up front. Simply a $25 processing fee. I had all intents of pursing this idea on my own prior to my health going south. Any thoughts on this contest? Or similar ones out there?
provisional patents are the cheapest, but you have a year to file the utility and design patents. consequently, there are also international and chinese patents to consider if it is built overseas (most likely for furniture, nowadays).
this part varies, depending on your lawyer, but the utility should be written in fairly vague terms for wider coverage. the more detailed it becomes, the easier it is to skirt (i.e bypass).
sometimes, it’s good to get your patents through a partner (like a manufacturer) because they have the funds and usually the expereince of having this done. plus, if you get royalties, you could get paid for other products they might make that riff off the original. keep in mind, though, they will have exclusivity.
I’ve been lurking in this thread for a while and thought I’d chime in with my 0.02$ worth.
a new category of furniture. Sorry, but I’m a little skeptical. Unless you are talking about a sofa with a built in radio or something as ridiculous I kinda doubt there’s a totally new category of furniture that has any demand or it would have likely been already done…furniture design been done to death and eveloped over hundreds of years… i can’t even think of any new category of furniture created in the last 100 years that didn’t exist previously… tables, chairs, sofa, desks, lighting, shelving all likely go back a few thousand years.
patents are pretty much only worth the money you have to defend them as I think someone mentioned. For something like furniture, they are even more so worthless. A Utility patent on a piece of furniture I would think is hard to achieve unless there is some specific mechanism like the support of the Aeron chair, etc.
A design patent won’t help much either. Just look at how many copies of something like the Eames chair exist and are openly available and you know how many lawyers Herman Miller must have.
I’d suggest the best strategy would be to just go ahead and make it. Sell what you can and don’t worry about being knocked off. If it’s a good idea, you sell lots and be one step ahead of the competition. If there is no demand, nobody will copy you.
Either find a partner to produce it who you trust or go it on your own if you can find a way. Stay away from royalty agreements if you have a choice…
Best suggestion yet though is to get a designer (preferably in the industry) to take a look to see if the idea has any merit.
Let’s not get into a discussion about whether this stuff is really “Furniture” . … Victor Papanek might argue that it is, but only if you built it yourself, for yourself. I might categorize it as “Useful Art”.
Is that really anything new? I’m sure if you look back at the classic periods in French furniture, or even Renaissance (heck even farther back to the Romans and Greeks I’m sure), you’d find the same thing pretty much. Artisanal furniture that is highly expensive and more of use for it’s aesthetic and status that seating… I wouldn’t really say anything is new here…