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I have created a fooseball table (table soccer) accessory / design improvement depending on the aspect of which I can legally pursue also variation of product installation or the incorporation of the design into future tables. It is a ball return that is either automated (not perfected in working model but can be easily fixed with simple time delayed power off circuit) or by pushing a button which is 100% tested and working with a 100% success rate in over a years worth of testing without variation to design. I want to patent the idea but was led to believe I would need permission from the original patent holder for the fooseball table before I can make and sell the add on that I created. Now I know if I wanted to create a table with this incorporated in the design I would definatly need consent from the patent holder but do I if its just a add on to already sold tables. And what category would I file under if it is possible to patent? I have searched the USPTO website and google patents with inconclusive results. It was really difficult to navigate with accurate results. Or there is no such patent yet. My design incorporates a air injected pipeing system that collects and reissues the ball back to the field using the existing goal and service ports only modifying the goal collection box and adding pvc and blower motor. I can make a link to a video if it would help. But I think I have already said to much to keep it a secret. Its the key of unique design that protects me though. If a patent is out of the question should I try to pitch my idea to a fooseball table manufacturer or would they be in the same sitiation?

  • Can you identify the patent you are worried about? Fooseball tables have been around a long time so I sort of doubt any original patents as unexpired. – Eric S Jul 30 at 11:31
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I can't give you specific legal advice because I'm not a lawyer and because I do not know the specifics of the situation. Just because someone has a product does not mean it is patented. Foosball tables have been around for many, many years. Any original patents that might have existed are assuredly expired by now. This is one reason why there are so many different manufacturers of them. Thus, unless there is a specific patent you know exists you can't know what is protected by patent.

As for your new idea, it is a very, very bad idea to describe it here or anywhere else that is public. Whatever you publish is now prior art and can be used to prevent you from obtaining a patent. There is a grace period in the US, but it is still a very bad idea.

The only advice I can give is to consult with an actual patent attorney. They can determine if there are any active patents which prevent the sale of your invention. They can also help you file patents to protect your invention. If your idea is indeed patentable then I would advise filing a provisional patent application before discussing your idea with foosball table manufacturers or investors.

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Your only need permission from someone else if they hold a patent that your device infringes upon. Merely being an accessory to something does not mean you need the permission of the maker of that something. However you would like to build a table that incorporates your device. Foosball is old enough that it is not too likely that there are patents covering the basic set up. I see only nine U.S. patents granted that have the word "foosball" in the abstract.

If you have a ball return that works better/different than existing ball returns (just my example) it is possible that there are patents on the existing devices that yours would infringe. It is also possible that the mechanism you have would infringe some patent completely unrelated to foosball.

You seem to think that you have not disclosed the key concept of your idea in asking this question - I hope you are correct in that. Maybe more deadly, you have disclosed that you have been using it for over a year. Unless that use has been confidential or (for the U.S.) properly experimental, you may have lost all ability to get a patent.

You mentioned that you did not know what "category" to file under. There is no need for you to declare a category in order to file, but to do a prior art search you will need to find other related things. Under

A63F 7/06. Games simulating outdoor ball games,

There is a CPC class -

A63F 7/0672 . . {with play figures fixed to a rotatable and longitudinally movable shaft}

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  • Nice complementary answer to mine. One thing that makes searching tricky is that "foosball" has several alternative spellings and a relevant patent might not use that term at all. – Eric S Jul 30 at 18:47
  • thanks - spelled "fooseball" it has 0 hits at the USPTO. The CPC class I cited (spelling-free search) has 62 hits at the USPTO. 362 at Espacenet – George White Jul 30 at 20:22
  • I've see "fussball" too which is the german spelling. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fussball – Eric S Jul 30 at 20:36

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