Don’t Sweat the Prior Art

Don't Sweat the Prior Art - Inventor School - Inventor Training

When I started out with inventing, I would get so nervous about finding out that ideas like mine already existed. I didn’t know it then, but I was worried about the Prior Art.

I know a bit more now about what prior art means and when I should be concerned and when I shouldn’t. Here are a few thoughts on it, I hope it helps you.

Don't Sweat the Prior Art - Inventor School - Inventor Training

What exactly is Prior Art?

Basically, Prior Art is a term which refers to everything that is similar to your invention which came before it.

Prior Art - The Inventor School - Inventor Training

It’s important that your invention be “new”  but it doesn’t need to be completely new. There is generally always SOME prior art for an invention. SOMETHING similar exists. If it didn’t that might mean that it’s a bad idea anyway.

So don’t worry to much about finding a similar invention. Just focus on the essentials of Patentability are: New, Useful and Non-obvious

In fact, our friend Gene Quinn over at IP Watchdog wrote a great article on prior art is a patent attorney and he covers this topic in depth.

In his article, Gene boils it down for us:

…the reality is that there is always prior art for an invention, the questions are just how close is it to what you want to protect…?

Basically, you can’t get a patent if:

  1. The invention in question was described in a patent issued anywhere in the world more than 12 months prior to a US application being filed.
  2. The invention in question was described in a printed publication published anywhere in the world more than 12 months prior to a US application being filed.
  3. The invention in question was publicly used in the US more than 12 months prior to a US application being filed.
  4. The device, machine or compound in question was offered for sale in the US more than 12 months prior to a US application being filed.
  5. The invention were publicly known in the US, but not necessarily patented or published, prior to a US application being filed.

In each of these 5, you see:

“…more than 12 months prior to a US application being filed”

That’s why there is such excitement these days about Provisional Patent Applications … they help you get your filing date as early as possible at a low cost.

My Invention Process before I thought about Prior Art

  • Think of a great solution to a common problem
  • Get really excited!
  • Fantasizing about my product being a hit, me quitting my job etc.
  • Make prototypes
  • Search for domain names (on Godaddy) for my new venture (because it’s so fun)
  • Eventually get the courage to search Google Images and Google Patents
  • Find similar ideas or products
  • Get sad and quit the project.

This was not only an emotional rollercoaster, but not a productive or business-like approach.

My New (more effective) Invention Process:

  • Get a great idea (market insight)
  • (still get excited!)
  • Google Image Search
  • Quick & Easy Market Analysis (Improvement? profitability?)
  • Create a spreadsheet of Competing Products (and their manufacturers)
  • Define what my product does BETTER
  • Create a visual mock-up (aka Sell Sheet) of my concept
  • Prepare a PPA (file it or just get it ready to file)
  • Call the companies and pitch the idea
  • If they like your idea, then move towards a licensing agreement.

 

Now I know the importance of prior art and how it shouldn’t be something scary, it should just be incorporated earlier in the process. The business of invention is a numbers game and you can’t waste time on ideas which aren’t NEW or IMPROVEMENTS on existing Prior Art.

Off we go!

 

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