Help with the Patenting Process -- answers to your questions

(I moved this conversation here from the Introduce Yourself page.)
Hi Ralph,
Patent law states that the invention must be

  1. Both novel and useful
  2. More than an “obvious” alteration of an existing invention. In your example, it would depend on the novelty of your pizza-cutter aerator. You’re right in that the combination might be considered “obvious to try” (in patent-office lingo). Patentability in this case would lie in the details of your mechanism. So, say, in addition to the pizza-cutting mechanism, you invented a new blade shape or a new twist that makes your aerator aerate better than any existing aerator, you’d have a chance at patentability.
    It all depends on how your invention compares to the prior art. Prior art is not just patented inventions, but any product, or anything that’s been publicly disclosed, even if it is not currently in commerce.

Hi akua,
Great that you joined the boards. Your advice is greatly sought after, I only met one person so far with this kind of expertise - he is very sought after as you can imagine. I deal with patentability all the time and do it as early on in the concept stage as possible. I will aim for a specific question. One question I run into is how simple an invention can be to be patentable. For example, a random idea I had was to improve an aerator rake by outfitting it with pizza cutter blades instead of the static teeth. The wheels exist, it is novel, but is it too obvious and simple? Sometimes a new invention arises by
outfitting something existing with one extra simple element, that is why this question regularly pops up.
IDZone - Product Design || Visualisation || 3D Printing

Ok so I imagine the patent office wants to see some proof that this product is better.
Like Kickstarter now asks for prototypes, is that necessary too for applying for a patent?

I have another question:

What can a freelance or employed designer do to become a co-inventor on a patent?
Is a royalty agreement typically enough of a stake in a company in order to be mentioned on a patent or do you have to be part of the legal person or company itself?

Question 1. No, there is no need to show a prototype to the patent office. And you don’t have to tell the patent office that it’s better than something else; you would simply show in your description that it is both novel and useful. Your description show its merits, i.e., that it is better than the others. In your patent application, you may cite the other inventions, but you don’t have to argue that yours is better; the patent examiner knows well the field of the invention and can make that determination by looking at what’s already out there. Because the USPTO’s goal is to promote commerce, they will protect something that is both useful and significantly different from prior inventions.

Question 2. To be a co-inventor, you must contribute to the conception of the invention as it is described in the patent claims. A royalty agreement does not typically give you that. If you work for a company, any patent you’re part of is assigned to that company. Your name might well be on the patent, but it is still assigned to the company; only the company can profit from it.