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Have a Crazy Invention? Get a Patent!

What do you get when you mix beer and an umbrella? A “beerbrella” of course! If you happen to be the beer drinking, sunbathing inventor of the beerbrella, you might call it US Patent #6637447. Yes, attaching an umbrella to a bottle merits a patent. As an outspoken fan of cocktail umbrellas, I struggle in seeing how the beerbrella meets the “new and useful” and “non-obvious” standards required for a patent. However, a beer cocktail umbrella seems like a pretty novel idea to me when compared to some other patents out there.
For example:

  • Have you ever wanted to check out the inside of your ear? If so, try the multi-use ear mirror.
  • Trying to lose weight, but can’t seem to stop eating? Try the anti-eating facemask.
  • Are you an animal lover with a guilty passion for a good cockfight? Just hook your chicken up with a pair of chicken-sized, non-lethal fighting gloves and let that little guy go toe-to-toe with his chicken pals. (Disclaimer* I don’t own a chicken and if I did, I would teach it that fighting is no way to solve its problems.)

Ready to patent your own super-unique invention? Whether or not it’s more novel then the chin putter is up to you, but to get started, you have to decide what kind of patent you want to apply for.

There are two types of patents, provisional and non-provisional patents. The provisional patent application is a lower-cost alternative. It allows patent filing without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any disclosure of pre-existing inventions (prior art). It also allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied to your product. By filing a provisional patent, the inventor benefits in three ways:

  1. It’s cheaper than the full patent process.
  2. The resulting patent will be given the earlier provisional application filing date.
  3. The twenty-year patent term is still measured from the later non-provisional filing date, so you basically get to extend the patent length by a year.

The next thing you’re going to want to decide is what invention classification your idea falls into. The choices are:

  • Method or process
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Software

The next step is prior art. This is only for situations where your invention includes some form of pre-existing knowledge or pre-existing inventions. You’ll have to articulate why your invention is different from prior art and/or an improvement over prior art. So if, for example, you’re the inventor of the ballistic missile body cover, you likely would have  needed to show how your invention is an improvement over a knight’s body armor from the Middle Ages. (Seriously though, how it this an improvement?)

Finally, you’re going to have to include drawings, a description, and summarize what the invention does and why it is “new and useful” and “non-obvious”.

A provisional patent is good for 12 months from the filing date. At some point during that time, you’re going to need to file a non-provisional patent application. It’s possible to just convert the provisional application to non-provisional, but this will reduce the length of the patent. For most people, the preferred approach is to file provisional first, then a corresponding non-provisional within those 12 months. This process is more involved than the provisional application, so it’s smart to consult an attorney.

The bottom line is if you have an invention you think is patentable, it’s worth looking into. But I’ll let you know right now, if your invention is a leash to walk a snake, somebody beat you to it.

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