Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for the ‘patents’ Category

What’s Worse Than Not Having a Patent? You Might Be Surprised

Posted by Plish on June 1, 2020

She would never let something like this happen to someone else again. Her brother narrowly escaped with his life. Were it not for the quick thinking of the medical personnel, she would have lost her brother Tim.  He was only there for a simple vaccination. Somehow, something in the vaccine reacted with his blood. Tim went into shock.

After that harrowing experience, she asked herself what anyone would:

Why isn’t there a quick test for checking if someone will react to the injection?

She decided to do some research and create a solution.  After a year of research, she thought she was on to something.  She called a friend who was a patent attorney and submitted the idea, something that she was sure would make a difference in the world.

I met Elaine, (not her real name,) when she came to me wanting to prototype the idea that she had patented. It was an exciting project and I jumped on it right away. However, once I saw the patent, I dug into the technology and there were some major issues. The product was next to impossible to manufacture. Not only that, there were newer  tests in the marketplace that could be manufactured on something the size of a thumb drive and thrown away afterword.  Elaine’s device would be the size of football and would require cleaning of some components after use.

I mentioned all of this to Elaine and she followed up with her patent attorney who said that everything in the patent, of course, protected her and assured her she didn’t infringe on other patents. But that wasn’t the problem. This wasn’t a product that was manufacturable, and even if it were, it would be too expensive and too much trouble for a lab to maintain.  In short, she had a patent that was useless, and worse, worthless.  She had spent $7000-$10000 in patent application services up to that point, not to mention over a year of her sweat and time, and she was no closer to helping others like her brother.  In fact, because of the year’s plus worth of time she sunk into the project, others would be that much closer to commercializing a usable solution.

The problem, and one I see too often in inventor/entrepreneurs, is that Elaine lacked in two areas and was driven by one:

Elaine LackedUnderstanding of…

  1. Key technologies on a fundamental, scientific level
  2. Similar technologies that could compete with what she wanted to accomplish

Understanding Technology

When patenting an idea it’s essential that the underlying technology be understood.  It’s not the job of the patent attorney or patent office to rigorously prove out a patent.  They assume that the person filing the patent has done that already.

Understanding Similar Technologies

There are very few technologies that are brand new to the world.  Chances are that any idea you have, there’s something similar, somewhere in the world, at some place in time.  It might not even be in the same industry, but something similar is likely out there.  Testing technologies have grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade.  Much of this is due to the miniaturization of electronics.  Before, an entire laboratory of equipment was needed to do a specific test.  Now it can be done on something the size of a credit card or smaller.  There are trends in the directions testing technology is going.  It’s important to understand those trends.  If you want your patent to be valuable, it needs to either be riding that trend or taking that trend one step further.

So, in this case, if the testing mechanism isn’t going to be smaller, or quicker, or cleaner, or disposable, unless it is just as (or more!) accurate and unbelievably cheaper, it is not going to do well in the marketplace.  Elaine’s device had too many components, and was large.  It would simply be too expensive to manufacture and maintain.

Instead Elaine Was Driven By…

  1. Emotion


I get it.  I’ve been there myself.  A great idea, a great cause.  There has to be a product here.  I need to patent it now!

But the same passion that drives us to solve problems can also drive us to waste time and money.  It’s hard to see something for what it is.

If Elaine had  looked at the above two areas, without emotion, while she was doing her research, she would have saved herself a year’s worth of work and 7000 to 10,000 dollars for a patent that would never make that money back.


I mention this last, but it’s not always easy being objective.

It takes a special person to look at your own idea and stop trying to commercialize it.  I’ve done it to my own ideas and it hurts!  That’s why it helps when there are others involved. In big businesses, there are multiple sets of eyes looking at an idea and the possibility of getting a patent.

As an inventor/entrepreneur, if you’re trying to come up with a way to solve a problem, or if you’ve got an idea but just aren’t sure what to do next, don’t just patent it.  Your money and time is worth too much to throw it away.  If Elaine would’ve taken time to understand key technologies and similar tech to hers, she may actually have developed and patented something that was saving lives and building a business.

If you are on the verge of filing for a patent or you have a problem that you’d like solved, set up an appointment for a one hour consult https://calendly.com/zenstorming/60min and let’s see if I can help you avoid the pitfalls Elaine fell into.  My goal is to ultimately save you time and money in generating an idea and/or bringing your product to market.

We can all make the world a better place with our ideas.  But we can also make things worse for ourselves if we’re not careful.

Looking forward to chatting!

(Also looking forward to your thoughts on this topic. Share your thoughts below!)







Posted in Entrepreneurship, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, patents, problem solving, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Need to Understand the New Patent Law? These Two Sites May Help

Posted by Plish on September 29, 2011

The America Invents Act has been signed into law.  In order to understand the impact of the law, I’ve been checking out various websites and found a couple that do a great job of explaining what this law means and how it may impact inventive entities, both large and small.

First, check out the law firm of Pepper Hamilton where this great primer  explains the changes in a clear and understandable manner.

Once you’ve read that, head on over to this Washington and Lee website, listen to the short podcast from Professor Alan C. Marco and read the article.  This is a really fair and balanced opinion on the impact of the patent law changes.

My opinion?

Yes, there might be a slight bias to the law that favors larger companies, but there seems to be enough wiggle room in the law to enable entrepreneurs to flourish.  Time and legal challenges will help shape the law, but in the meantime, if someone has a great idea for a product, passionately believes in it, and wants to see it come to fruition, the United States is still the place to be.

Posted in Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, invention, patents | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

In the Medical Device Industry? – Check Out Knobbe Medical Device Group

Posted by Plish on July 28, 2011

Are you a medical device start-up?

If not, are you looking for:

– news about medical device companies?

– medical device oriented conferences in your area?

– legal insights into the world of medical devices?

– suppliers, manufacturers and consultants that know their way around the medical device industry?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above then check out KnobbeMedical.

Started by the Intellectual Property attorneys of Knobbe Martens, the website is a great resource for those in the medical device industry.

Personally, I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the information that’s available. If there is anything negative about the site it’s that the page design isn’t overly friendly.  There is so much information that it can be somewhat laborious to drill down to get the information you need. 

Nevertheless, don’t let that discourage you.  It’s well worth spending some time at the Knobbe Medical site.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, Funding Innovation, innovation, Medical Devices, patents, Start-Ups | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Patent Analysis Website Provides Some Useful Visualization Tools

Posted by Plish on September 26, 2010

I was doing some patent searching the other day and came across this patent search/analysis tool at see-the-forest.com.

While the site has limited use for those who are not paid subscribers, what it does offer can still fit the bill for many situations.

The search engine does a decent job of finding patents, but what I really like are the graphical depictions of the data that’s mined.

I suggest you check out a great example of a sample search located here.  It looks at the evolution of the ‘car airbag chip’ patent -what types of patents were cited by it, and how it was cited by other patents.  Here’s another example of 100 patents that came up from searching with the term ‘nano’.  I like how even a basic search can give you some great ideas and perspectives on the overall landscape and how it’s changed and continues to change.  Clusters are pretty obvious as are inter-relations between patents.

If you register you are also provided a workbench area where you can see the details of the various patents and do some tweaking of searches and additional analyses.

I do suggest you check out their blog as there are more case studies depicted there.

If there’s one thing that I  don’t like,  it’s that I can’t grab patent numbers or text using ‘highlight, copy, paste’ to move info around.  It’s an interface thing that bugs me because it forces me to remember the info or click-through to the Google page and copy a number from there to do another search.  While I can export search results to Excel, and there are ways to do further searches on the workbench page, the ability to be able to ‘highlight and copy’  is something that would make this even cleaner to use.

All in all, a useful site and one that I’ve already gotten some value from. 

Check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Posted in Design, idea generation, Information Visualization, Innovation Tools, patents, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Boliven Innovation Network™ – Patents, Drug Trials, News and More

Posted by Plish on January 16, 2010

Came across another mind-blowing database and  social networking site.

The Boliven Innovation Network™

Search for patents, medical devices, clinical trials, SEC filings, news reports, and more.  All in all,  over 100 million peer-reviewed documents are part of this network. 

The searches can be done in text form or even more beautifully depicted in interactive, graphical form.

I could walk you through the site but, trust me, go there and play with some searches.

You won’t be disappointed.

Posted in Information Visualization, innovation, Innovation Tools, patents, Research, Social Networking, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Innovation Lessons From the History of Pulse Oximetry (or, How One Person’s Noise is Another’s Symphony)

Posted by Plish on October 6, 2009


pulseox michaelplishka2009If anyone has ever been in an emergency room, hospital or had a medical procedure done, you no doubt have had a pulse oximeter placed on your finger (or perhaps earlobe).  The device functions by shining certain wavelengths of  light at your skin and reading the amount of light that comes back or through the tissue.

It’s a really cool device and quite simple in its operation – you could build one yourself if you wanted to.  Yet, what is today a standard in medical monitoring, was once an annoying artifact.

In the early 1970’s, Japanese BioEngineer Takuo Aoyagi was studying ways of measuring cardiac output.  At the time, the established method involved injecting dye into the blood, diverting this dyed blood from an artery through an external tube and then shining light through the tube and measuring the light that’s transmitted. 

Although it was effective it was also pretty invasive.  So, building upon this technique, researchers tried using the same technology on a person’s earlobe – shine a light through the earlobe and measure the transmitted light.  While this was a step in the right direction, the readings were spoiled by the pulsatile nature of the signal.

Enter Aoyagi-San who developed a technique to filter out the pulsatile effect.  Great, right?


Even after this adjustment it was difficult to obtain consistent values – something was creating noise in the system.  Mr. Aoyagi correctly postulated the fluctuation was due to changing amounts of oxygen bound to hemoglobin in the blood.   Rather than simply filter out the noise to obtain clean signals he focused his efforts on capturing the ‘noise’ of the fluctuations in a repeatable manner.  

The non-invasive pulse oximeter was born.

What’s the takeaway?

When designing new products we have a tendency to focus on achieving certain goals while working around, ignoring or minimizing the noise.  Instead, we should make friends with the noise and find out what it has to say to us.  We then have to have enough fortitude to pursue the elusive at the expense of what was originally the goal! 

Everyone hears the noise; only the innovative hear the symphony…

Click here to read the full story of pulse oximetry.

Posted in Case Studies, Design, Disruptive Innovation, Great Creative Minds, innovation, invention, patents, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Cool Patent Search Tool with Interactive Graphics – Patent Cluster

Posted by Plish on August 19, 2009

While doing some additional patent work I came across another slick tool called Patent Cluster.

What is really great about this tool is that it has a choice of viewing patent search results in  ‘List’ and  ‘Visualize’ modes. Visualize mode results in an interactive graphic that subdivides patents by topic.  Its only weakness is that it doesn’t seem to capture as many patents as a search at the USPTO.

Want to take it on a test drive?

A screen capture for a search on the word, “antimicrobial” resulted in the following graphic.  Click on it and it will take you to the actual search page where you can play with the interface yourself.

Click to see search results at Patent Cluster

Click to see search results at Patent Cluster

Posted in Design, idea generation, Information Visualization, innovation, patents, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cool New Patent Analysis Tool

Posted by Plish on August 13, 2009

Over on LinkedIn I came across a new website that offers some intriguing Artificial Intelligence and Pattern Recognition webtools.  But the one I like the most is the Patent Search tool that not only shows patents in the field you’re looking in but allows you to get an approximation of the value of each patent.

For illustration purposes I  ran a search for U.S. patents that have the terms “Camera” and “Flexible”  in the Abstract. The results are shown below:


The results show the following:

1. If a box is outlined, it means the patent in that row belongs to the subclass of the column.

2. The number in the column/row intersection is equal to the number of subclasses in the patent plus the number of patents from the search that are in that subclass.  The higher this number, the more valuable the patent can be seen to be.

3. The shade of blue helps carve out islands of similar groups of numbers.

After you run this search you can check on the patents you’d like to look at more and click the ‘Find Similar’ button to obtain a sorting operation.

Personally I like this engine.  I even found some other patents that didn’t show up when doing other web based searches.  I also like how the various relationships between various patents and classes are depicted.  It does give a great lay of the land in that respect.   It also excels in showing where there might be holes in the patent landscape.

After talking to the developers of this tool, they made it clear that they have much more in pipeline from a development perspective, so this search engine is destined to become cooler and more useful still.

Posted in Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, invention, Market Assessment, patents, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

The Paralyzing Power of Patents

Posted by Plish on March 6, 2009


The idea behind patents is a good one.

It provides protection to the idea generator by allowing the party to get financial benefit from the product for a certain amount of time.

It protects the little guy, at least in theory.

Patents force others to develop new approaches to problems-they spark innovation….

…in theory…

The problem comes when companies play the system; when they have multiple applications percolating in the patent office, multiple patents covering multiple approaches.

Controlling patents becomes a way to create a monopoly using intellectual property.

Innovation is still possible but it becomes much more difficult.

I’ve spent a good portion of my professional career navigating around and through patents.  It would be an understatement to say that the law around patents can sometimes cripple new product development.

Yes, when you can get around something it creates a whole new landscape of products, but more often than not, it results in incremental changes that are based more upon what can be defended in court than what brings true value to the customer.

The good news is that products can be conceived of, developed, launched and be wildly successful and they don’t even need patent protection!  Even better, often these products have no patent competition-great ideas aren’t always patentable!

Don’t let the price of a patent, or the threat of possible competing patents slow down your creative thinking.   Keep solving problems, keep your creative juices flowing.

Most of all, if you get an idea and  think you need to patent, find out if there is a market first.  There are great resources out there like the Washington State University Innovation Assessment Center.  For $795 they’ll assess your technology, do a basic patent search and even help you get off the ground if they believe there is a market for your product.  It’s alot cheaper than the $2000 minimum you’ll spend on a patent.



Keep records of what you are doing in a bound notebook, sign and date your ideas and if possible have someone witness them just in case.  That information will be valuable for establishing when your patent protection starts.

What tips or ideas regarding patents, innovation and being creative can you share?

Posted in Design, idea generation, innovation, Market Assessment, patents, problem solving | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Latest on Innovation Metrics

Posted by Plish on November 14, 2008

InnovationLabs has published a white paper on innovation metrics.  While intriguing in its breadth, I’m not totally sold on the proposed metrics contained therein.  Too many of these metrics can be “padded” so that when it comes times to performance reviews people will be rushing to fill their quotas of “customers seen” or “ideas generated” just so they can claim they’re innovative.

Many of the other metrics are based upon  “what was done”, or “what was the return on x project”.  While necessary to somehow measure, these types of metrics lag and are like reacting to a fever of 105F after the person’s fever dropped to room temperature  becaue he/she cooked.


Posted in Creativity Leadership, innovation, Innovation Metrics, Nature of Creativity, patents, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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