Patent Profession Questions: Gear Grinder #5


Introductory Note: Welcome back to “Gear Grinder with Danny Rooney.” We aim to bring this series to you on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Here are our previous installments: #1, #2, #3, and #4. Last time, my cousin Stevie filled in. This post is based on a fictitious character, and readers should be aware of the underlying snark and sarcasm. Just think of it as a way to have fun and let loose with some frustrations with life as a patent professional. We know you can relate!

Guess who’s back, back again… Oh, wait, I already used that line before. How about “Welcome Back.” Thanks to my cousin Stevie for filling in, but while he is a good intentioned lad, he never really gets his facts straight. Yes, our fifth cousin Wayne did say a few naughty words to the camera to get suspended (while Stevie’s hero got away with nothing for something similar). I, on the other hand, was not suspended, but was actually just away, investigating the conspiracy at the Denver Airport. While I didn’t find any reptilian aliens in the airports underground passages, I did come across a rather common annoyance whenever I was asked what I did for a living. Find out what that annoyance is after the jump….


If you are like me, anytime someone asks you what you do, your reply of “patent searching” is bound to get an inquisitive response. In most cases, the person in question will tell you that they have a great idea for some doodad or another, and want to know how to get it patented. If you are like most patent searchers, your nature is to be helpful, explaining the process about how to get a patent, and how you fit into said process. In most cases you will actually use the word “said,” which will elicit a curious glance from the person. I, on the other hand, like to take another approach. I first ask what this miraculous invention is, and how it compares to the other quintessential inventions of our time such as the Snuggie and the Slap Chop.

For instance, at an event that may or may not have involved fermented beverages, a young lass proceeded to tell me about her amazing invention that consisted of a life jacket with a flag on a pole that pops up when the wearer falls into the water, indicating where the wearer is located to then aid the rescue crew in spotting her. She had an expression of joy that is often seen on teenagers before they enter the real world. Visions of moneybags were dancing through her head, while an infomercial with Billy Mays advertising this product played in the background. Being the helpful, and not at all cantankerous person that I am, I thought it would be good to show the young lady exactly what it is that I do. I proceeded to grab a nearby laptop, and open up Google Patents. Using the clever search string “life jacket flag on pole,” I pulled up a list of patents, including US 2,118,708 A to Johnson on May 24, 1938. I watched in delight as that radiant smile quickly went sour; her gentle spirit devastatingly crushed in a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. Her invention had been thought up in 1938, and several times more since then. To add further icing on the cake, I also told her how much a patent costs to obtain (generally outside of the range of someone with limited resources, a small market to sell to, and no business or manufacturing connections to speak of), thereby pouring further salt on the wounds. And that my dear readers, is how the answer to the “patent searching” question is both a curse and a blessing in disguise.

On the next Gear Grinder: Danny escapes the spell of the reptilian aliens, and stops talking like he was writer in 1850, trying to impress everyone with his clever use of adjectives and descriptive language.

Patent Analysis from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Registered Patent Agent Dan Wolka. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.

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15 Responses

  1. i think you need to revisit your process on picking up chicks. i agree with the sentiment of the post though. we have a difficult job to explain to people. i’ve only had one person who actually knew what it was. you also have the dilemma on how deep you go in your explanation. it can range from “inventions and stuff” to quite detailed specific points.

    • Thanks for the comment. Personally, I get a kick out of that look of gloom when you tell someone with an idea how long it will take to patent something and how much its will cost. That look is usually priceless. As important as patents are, they really aren’t that valuable unless you have a specific strategy to get revenue out of them, especially for the individual inventor. Some are successful because they have the connections to either manufacture or license the invention, but for most people, if they want to invent something, they probably need to spend more time researching how they can make money off of their idea.

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