February 17, 2015

Case Surrounding Exercise Equipment Leads to Important New Requirement for Patent Claims

In Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments, Biosig had been awarded U.S. Patent No. 5,337,753 for a heart rate monitor for use on exercise equipment.  The patent disclosed an improved monitor that could isolate heart signals, which distinguished it from conventional monitors, which could not isolate the electric signals emitted by the heart.  Biosig’s invention required exercisers to place their hand in contact with two electrodes on cylindrical bars “in spaced relationship with each other.”  Biosig asserted that this claim was definite since a skilled artisan would figure out the correct spacing for isolating heart signals by trial and error.

The Supreme Court, however, determined that this claim was not precise enough, stating that “a patent must … afford clear notice of what is claimed, thereby apprising the public of what is still open to them.”  In other words, claims must inform those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty.  The detail about the spacing of the bars was not specific enough for competitors to know whether they would infringe Biosig’s patent.

This decision could signal a significant change in requirements for patent claims.  In the past, courts invalidated claims only when no single construction could be found for a term.  Courts accepted a little ambiguity.  This gave litigation plaintiffs flexibility to accuse targets of infringing their ambiguous claims.

Moving forward, the new formulation finds patents invalid if the public cannot determine the boundaries of the patented invention with reasonable certainty.  The Court expressed that its’ goal was to eliminate a patent drafter’s temptation to be purposely vague and ambiguous. 

 

February 16, 2015

What to do After you Have an Idea

 

At some point, most hunters or anglers come up with product ideas.  But how can you know whether you should turn this product into a reality?  Here are some helpful starting points:

 

Questions to ask:

  • Will my idea sell?
  • How much will people be willing to pay for my product?
  • How will I fund this project?
  • How and where can I manufacture this product?
  • Should I license this idea or manufacture and sell it myself?
  • How will I get stores to consider my product?
  • How will I get the word out?
  • Which trade shows, consumer shows, and buying groups should I work with?
  • What should the price structure be for various distributors and sellers?
  • Should I get patent or liability insurance?
  • Should I pursue a patent?  What kind?
  • Should I get a trademark?
  • Do I have a non-disclosure agreement?
  • Do I have a prototype?  If not, how will I make one?

 

In the meantime, be sure to follow these tips:

  • If you’re on a tight budget, consider starting with a Provisional Patent Application.
  • Do not show your invention in public before you have filed for a patent.
  • Perform a market survey to gauge whether your idea will be successful.
  • Select an effective package design and name. 
  • Focus on short, effective selling points.

 

The attorneys at Cislo & Thomas LLP are experienced with every stage of the inventing process, from conception to design, prototyping, manufacture, and licensing.  Please contact us today to arrange a consultation!

 

 

February 13, 2015

 

Fishing for Patents

 

Have you developed innovative new fishing equipment?  Not sure whether to patent it?  Take a look at these three stories to gain some inspiration for your next patent:


1. “Fishing Lure Pouch”  Harold Barefoot from Tipp City, Ohio invented an elongated hollow fishing lure pouch, which can retain fishing lure with a fishing rod and reel when not fishing.  The pouch is made of flexible material and has a slit lengthwise that can be opened by squeezing the opposite ends of the pouch, which helps with installation and removal of the lure in addition to shielding it from rods while carrying.

2. “Fish hook”  This fishhook can be operated with one hand to release a fish caught on the hook without exposing ones hands to the hook or the fish’s teeth.  A button allows the angler to retract the lock rod from the notch though a rotation.

3. “In-Tank Feeder Fish Dispenser”  For his school’s invention fair, 10-year old Evan Loginov developed a device for dispensing live feeder-guppies to predatory fish.  The dispenser contains live feeder-fish in a small chamber.  The owner just needs to release a small door and the fish is let out, but the big fish cannot get into the chamber to eat the other feeder fish.


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