Patenting, Intellectual Property, etc and Design?

I’ve designed a line of furniture that is based on a particularly creative and original idea. I’m wondering if there is a way that I should protect myself from being ripped off by a more established designer - that can beat me to the promotion and production. I’m an independent craftsman type designer who’s slowly developing the interest (money) to market, advertise, and produce these pieces.

Your thoughts advice is very much appreciated.

in my opinion (and experience) has no sense to invest money and time patenting furniture (styles).
different if you may invented a mechanism, material etc for furniture.
Look at the fashion industry (which has an annual tuernover 3 times that the furniture industry) have you ever seen a patented garmet from Armany? No, Coco Chanel 60 years ago said " I will be concern the day I am not copied"
WHY?; Only leaders are copied, has no sense to copy a3rd or 4th class company.
Good luck and be ready to be copied…

Patents: A new, non-obvious invention related to:

  • devices, machines
  • novel compositions
  • computer software and hardware (i.e. Integrated Circuit)
  • methods of using or manufacturing a device

Majority of traditional patents are “Method of Manufacture” (Herman Miller patented method of attaching fabric in their Aeon office chair). Majority of patents are pharmaceutical formulations, life science related, and software.

For furniture related, you would probably be better off registering a design patent (US), or Industrial Design (Canada, Europe): An original shape, configuration or ornamentation applied to a useful article.

Or be really clever incorporating your “particularly creative and original idea” into a “brand” and register a Trademark (logos, trade names, slogans).

Sorry to say, but in terms of Intellectual Property assessment, you probably do not have a “particularly creative and original idea”. To protect it will require a “particularly creative and original idea”.

I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.

I hold several utility patents around furniture. They all cover unique structures, new mechanisms and functionality. Utility patents are not limited to manufacturing processes.

Design patents are a waste of time unless your product is easily recognizable based on extensive marketing efforts behind it (the iPod would be a good example). Even that does not guarantee protection. Design patents are subjective and easily defeatable by changing one minor design detail still allowing for your “look” to be ripped off.

The simplest way to protect intellectual property is to date sketches/drawings and mail them back to yourself. This ensures that your works are officially dated by a 3rd party (the Post Office in this case). You can then show it to others and have a slight legal foothold by claiming prior art.

Of course this is all mute if you did not do your homework and ensure someone else hasn’t already patented what you think is your unique idea.

The poor man’s patent (self-addressed envelope trick) is pretty shaky legally, but it only costs you 39 cents, so no big deal really.

The biggest thing people forget with patents is that there are no patent police. You (and your expensive lawyers) are responsible for enforcing the patent. In a particularly egregious case of theft with a potentially high payoff, you might find a lawyer who will work on contingency, but this is rare. Even if you win, in most cases you are only entitled to back royalties, which in this industry probably won’t cover your litigation costs. Patent prosecutions take years, and lawyers bill three figures per hour. You do the math. It’s worth it for Herman Miller to get a patent, because they can aggresively enforce it. Can you?

I’ve had to circumvent patents before. Often I come up with a better solution than the one covered by the patent. In those cases, all the money spent by the patent holder was not just for nothing, but actually helped a competitor come up with a better product.

If your idea is good, people will copy you. That is life. If you make a better product for less money, it won’t matter.

You will be more likely ripped off by an anonymous Chinese factory than by a “more established designer.”

The simplest way to protect intellectual property is to date sketches/drawings and mail them back to yourself. This ensures that your works are officially dated by a 3rd party (the Post Office in this case). You can then show it to others and have a slight legal foothold by claiming prior art.

That is the easiest way to get total bullshit-level documentation. Doesn’t protect you from much at all. This bullshit about mailing something to yourself might hold up in Judge Judy’s People’s Court… or maybe not. If you have something that can be protected by actual copyright (published works, music, software, etc) then you are screwing yourself by not filing for a copyright, its pretty cheap, easy, and fast once you learn the ropes.

If you expect there to be any easy way to file for a patent, you are mistaken. Its a long, expensive, and painful proccess.

Your basic problem is that you probably don’t have any protectable intellectual property in the first place. Life is tough, man, so wear a helmet.

The way something looks, for the most part, is not protectable.

You can’t patent ideas, by the way, no matter how clever or new they are. What you can patent are … methods or processes, or inventions. Not every idea is an invention. Yes, there are design patents that seem to cover what you’re interested in but… odds are very bad that you’ll be able to enjoy any real protection under a design patent.

If you can actually market your product, manufacture it, have it out there, and protect your ideas in the good old fashioned capitalist way… by being the one to dominate the market with them, then you will be able to afford some lawyers to scare off some of the ripoff artists and to better advise you.

Concrete box makes a good case. The only way to protect yourself is to get the design out there, make the 5-gallon-buckets-full-of-money it will take to defend your design.

Get the first one out there to learn how the business works, realizing that if it is a success, you will get ripped off, and if it not, well, then there is more work to be done.

Thanks for all of your replys.

The pilot proto-type has just been finished, the cost of production was way higher then I had hoped but I’m sure I can get it down once I start doing larger runs of them.

I’ll post up a few pics once I get further along.