Startup Resources for Inventors

Finding Existing Patents

There are a few free resources for searching for existing patents and published applications that could be used against your patent application. These resources can be used to get a quick look at the landscape. Consulting a patent attorney is recommended to find the most relevant publications, as well as a professional analysis of the scope of the patent to pursue.

Searching for Available Business Names

  • Namrr – Text based trademark search engine

Prototyping

As we’ve previously discussed, prototyping is not a requirement for filing a patent application. However, prototyping can be helpful for problem solving and finalizing the structure of the invention before filing. Alternatively, the inventor may be looking for manufacturing help or suppliers. The following resources can be used to identify possible engineers, manufacturers, suppliers, and other prototyping resources.

As a word of caution, the inventor should be careful about the public disclosure and first sale doctrines. A request for manufacturing, engineering, or design help may be a public disclosure of an invention, if not under requirement of secrecy. Furthermore, buying a prototype may constitute a first sale (even to yourself) under the right circumstances.

Both of these doctrines stem from 35 U.S.C. 102 and cause a one-year clock to begin running against the inventor. After this date, the inventor cannot obtain a patent due to prior public knowledge imputed by these doctrines. Therefore, the inventor should use non-disclosure agreements, if the priority date is not already held by a filed patent application.

Search Engines

A well-tailored query can lead to highly specific results organized by locality, specialty, or other keywords. One benefit of search engines is that an inventor may find local businesses that are not paying to be in national trade databases. However, free form searching is difficult without knowledge of industry standard terminology. When prototyping, 3d printing companies, welders, or electrical engineers may be helpful, depending on the field of invention.

Manufacturer and Supplier Databases

Manufacturer and supplier databases often list paying companies. The national reach of these databases, along with the cost, may help narrow the list to established businesses. Furthermore, the inventor can browse industry-specific categories. This can help lead to new search terms for Google.

  • ThomasNet – ThomasNet is an online database that replaced the Thomas Register books listing business to business suppliers.

Online Suppliers

Many components are already commercially available. These components can be used to assemble the invention. For example, the Raspberry Pi can be useful for computing and hardware prototyping. Many manufactured parts can be found through online suppliers.

Foreign Suppliers

Foreign suppliers can be cheaper than U.S. suppliers. Furthermore, some suppliers will allow custom orders. Often, suppliers mark product pages when customization is an option. Alternatively, suppliers also list a contact line for questions.

When using a foreign supplier, make sure to order a proof. The proof may have a much high unit price than an bulk order. However, a quality inspection is important to avoid issues with bulk orders. The inventor may not want to disclose the invention without a foreign patent, because the manufacturer can continue to produce and sell the invention abroad. It is possible to order pre-existing parts and have the actual inventive aspects assembled in the U.S. by a contractor under a non-disclosure agreement to avoid public disclosure.

If you need help with your patents, trademarks, copyright, or trade secrets, please contact us.

Jeremy I. Maynard
Registered U.S. Patent Attorney
Troutman & Napier, PLLC
4740 Firebrook Blvd.
Lexington, KY 40513
Tel: 859-253-0991
Web: Troutman & Napier, PLLC
Originally Published at: Maynard.Law
Originally Published by: Maynard.Law

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