I had an idea for a new piece of technology, a gadget. I found a patent filed and though the intent of the invention and results are similar to what I would propose, my method (technology for obtaining the result) would be different as technology has improved (that patent was filed in 1988! - which in itself may mean it's expired?). There are several other patents which reference this, which are newer — so those would probably also factor into this I assume?

What is the address or name of a reference website or book that discusses what I could do in order to pursue my invention? Are there specialists who help in this situation, as a resource (before going to a patent lawyer I suppose)?

I would love to get funding and develop this, but I want to make sure I move forward smartly.


2 Answers 2


The kind of "specialist" you're looking for is really a patent attorney, or a patent agent (a person who has a license from the Patent Office to represent inventors during the application process, but who is not licensed to practice law in any state). Patent agents are generally cheaper than patent attorneys and would be able to provide the type of help you need in terms of applying for a patent.

Alternatively, you could work with a search firm directly and have them do a prior art search on your idea. (I like Walsh IP myself, but that's just personal preference.) The possible danger in taking this route is that, while you should be able to get a pretty comprehensive report on references that might read on your idea, you likely do not have the knowledge or experience necessary to interpret the importance of what you find.

Whatever you do, do not pay anyone for anything without first looking into their reputation and abilities. There are lots of different ways to approach IP from a strategic point of view and you need to make sure whoever you talk to understands your goals and are providing services that will help you meet those goals for a reasonable cost. Independent inventors, such as yourself, are often very passionate about their ideas, to the extent that their judgment can be somewhat clouded by their enthusiasm. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there willing to take advantage of that enthusiasm by offering services that do not really provide any value.


Remember this too: If others hold the patent and you can't "work around" it or make any but marginal or obvious improvements... then you might be able to license from them. Might even be the best case scenario. They have sunk costs of the patent and if you see a market for it then you've just saved a bunch of start-up costs by outsourcing the inventing and patent gaining part.

If you really want to crank up a business then not having to work out a new bit of IP is a real help.

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