Intellectual property


This is a sticky subject and I wish to hear your opinions about it.

It is about intellectual property.

Do you believe in it? How about when someone steals an idea. A local business stole one of my designs and are selling the product. I did not protect my design but I didn’t know they would steal it.

How does one deal with intellectual property? If I haven’t discussed the idea with the hardware store how would I have actualized it? How would I ask a manufacturer or a store to sign an NDA before even knowing if the design works and if it does, and without signing an NDA, can I ask the other party to acknowledge that the idea is mine retrospectively?

It is obvious that I actualized the idea way ahead of the store. I even show that I actualized it in 2015 and they did in 2016. Isn’t this enough to show that the idea is mine not theirs?


For patents, first to file is now the standard worldwide, not first to invent. So even if you did “invent” the idea first, if you don’t file for the patent, no one cares.

Also, European patents are even more strict. If you show your idea “publicly”, without an NDA, you give up your rights to patent it. If you file in the US, I believe you have up to 1 year to file in the European countries of your choice before it becomes public domain.

I now a guy who claims to have “invented” the smart phone. He had the idea for it before it came out. Well, so what. Ideas are cheap. I have an idea for an anti-gravity machine. So what. If I do nothing, I’ll get nothing. I have no problem with that.

Patent protection is 20 years. I don’t find that excessive because it can take 10+ years to commercialize an idea and in reality you only have a few years of protection.

I do have a problem with patent trolls but I do not know the most effective way of stopping that practice.

I also have a problem with copyright protection being essentially indefinite. Giving the owner of the copyright a few years of protection so they can make a buck or two encourages the creation of new things. But holding that monopoly forever makes anyone who claims they want to make the world a better place a hypocrite and a liar. If they claim they are only in it for the money, I wouldn’t have a problem because that is the truth.

Unfortunately, the reality is that you might have exactly the same idea as a thousand other people so without filing an application, it’s not protectable. When we deal with inventors we always begin the relationship with an executed MNDA, then if the idea appears to have merit we advise the inventor on the value of filing a provisional patent application. That gives the inventor some breathing room and a “paper trail”. IP isn’t cut and dry and also isn’t always valuable, certainly when judged against the revenue it might reap versus the cost of protecting it.

Thanks guys for your replies. Indeed this is how I understand it and as you mentioned Scott it isn’t cut and dry. The ownership part is what confuses me. I believe that indeed a thousand people could find the idea at the same time and that is no problem. The problem is when this is translated into money. I don’t know how it works?

I re-read your original post. The “not cut and dry” part comes into play with regard to whether you introduced the “store” to the idea as part of a “wouldn’t it be cool if we all…” or “what if we got together and…” conversation resulting in you assuming cooperative development but they instead took the idea, developed it and commercialized it as a wholly separate effort. Or, did you just happen to mention it randomly and they, being opportunistic and with resources, developed it before you could?

Another thing you mentioned was 2015 vs 2016 - did you make an example of this widget and promote, market or sell it in 2015 - then they came out with widget 2.0 is 2016?

I was discussing with them how I would actualize the design for myself. There was no talk of commercialization… etc. I did not discuss with them so it would be a cooperative development.

They built the exact same thing.

Unfortunately, the only thing I can tell you is that because you didn’t file a provisional patent app prior to Party B coming out with the product, and because you didn’t have anyone sign an NDA prior to discussing it, there’s no recourse for you. Although patent laws have changed, there still exists a prior art “argument”, so if you’d come out with the product first, promoted it (public record of commercialization), showed it to Party B and can prove that they only knew of this idea because of you and that they were only able to commercialize it because of you, then you’d have a slight chance of damages based solely on a percentage of their sales - but even that argument would be weak and probably not worth pursuing as the legal costs alone would most likely outweigh the benefits of winning any judgement.

Thanks Scott for the information. I did not have a public record of commercializing it, I just did it and placed it in my house. Other than that I showed the picture of it already done and most probably that is the reason they were motivated to copy it.

Would discussing it with them help at all?

Discussing how you feel and offering to help improve a next gen version with them can’t hurt - I wouldn’t start with , “You owe me money…” though :wink:

Keep in mind that in 2/3rds of the world, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.