patent? where to start?

Hi, all

I have an idea that I want to patent, and do not know where to start. Fisrt of all, this is not a huge invention or revolutionary product at all. But as long as I know there is no other product like this, and in my opinion, this product has a great possibility. The problem is that main product that I am going to modify has patent since 1960. My product will have added function which will separate this product from any other competitors. My Question is… Is it possible to patent added function over existing patented product?

And here is what I am thinking to do.
IF I can make my add function patent, I would approach to the manufacturer of that existing product(patent holder), and pitch the idea ot see if they are interested in producing it for me. Or Maybe I can sell the idea?

How would you handle this kind of situation?

As far as I know you can patent a ‘significant improvement’ of a product.

for more info check out

What Can Be Patented
The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained.

In the language of the statute, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,” subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word “process” is defined by law as a process, act or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term “machine” used in the statute needs no explanation. The term “manufacture” refers to articles that are made, and includes all manufactured articles. The term “composition of matter” relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 excludes the patenting of inventions useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy for atomic weapons.

The patent law specifies that the subject matter must be “useful.” The term “useful” in this connection refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, that is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent.

Interpretations of the statute by the courts have defined the limits of the field of subject matter that can be patented, thus it has been held that the laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter.

A patent cannot be obtained upon a mere idea or suggestion. The patent is granted upon the new machine, manufacture, etc., as has been said, and not upon the idea or suggestion of the new machine. A complete description of the actual machine or other subject matter for which a patent is sought is required.

Best of luck.

Thanks Artur83,

I am reading lots of things in that site. Since I do not know anything about patent, it’s kind of overwhelming, and it might take a while to put my foot down firmly, but I will give it a hard try.

Today, I received very important part for this product, and tested it… It worked! Felt great about it. There are couple of other important parts that I have to figure out, but one at a time.

I’m looking for a patent lawyer around Columbus, Ohio area. If anybody knows a good one that you worked with, let me know. I found bunch of names, but I would rather use someone people recommand.


Depend how well the original patent was written. If there is any loopholes a good patent attorney will find a way to break it. Don’t give up yet.

Reread the original patent again!

Back again. Had to have a quick dinner.

If I remmember a story correctly:

Back in the eighties when the Cabbage Patch Kids were the hottest toy Coleco sued a company for making dolls very similar to theirs. The company being sued hired a patent attorney and argued in court that even though the defendant’s product looked very similar to Coleco’s doll the defendant’s doll’s does not have a belly button.

The judge ruled in favor of the defendant.

The Cabbage Patch Kid were marketed as almost real life babies, which included a belly buttom to make it more life like and that was the whole marketing strategy behind this product. Since the defendant’s doll lacked this feature it was not really infringing on Coleco’s claim.

I believe that is how the story goes.

Even if I am wrong it is still something to inspire you.

I found a great resource for DIY legal matters including Patents (and Living Wills now that we’ve all been dragged through that mess.)

AFAIK, a patent from 1964 will have expired by now and fall into the public domain so you need not worry that what you are doing infringes on it.

However, since your invention utilizes elements of that older patent, your application will have to prove that your work is novel and not just improved. If it is determined that your work is “obvious” to someone “knowledgeable in the art” then the USPTO will reject your claim.

Good luck.


speaking of Nolo Press

“Patent It Yourself”, by patent attorney David Pressman, is a great book in their collection.

It’s a layman’s read and you can even download it electronically in PDF format (8MB).