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Lesson #30 Can Someone Else on the Planet Think of The Same Idea As You?

rogerbrown's Avatargold

Okay, I know everyone likes to think they are the only people on the planet thinking about their million dollar idea, but that is not true. In fact there could be hundreds of people thinking along the same lines as you are right now. Look at how many times you have walked in a store or watched TV and seen an idea you had months or years ago now on the market. Did that person, that you have never met, creep into your house while you were asleep and using alien technology pull it from your mind? No, they had the same idea you did, took the idea and did something with it to get it to market.
I have had numerous Inventors contact me saying this company stole their idea and want to know what they can do about it. When I talk with them further I find out the product is from France, Germany, Japan or a company in the US several states away from where they live. You talk to them asking how do they assume that company got ahold of their idea, did they send it to them or a sister company? They tell me they have never shown it to anyone, it is not even on paper, it is still in their head or they have it in a journal they wrote and just haven’t gotten around to moving forward with it. But, they are certain they stole it from them.
Inventors need to realize if you have an idea it is almost a certainy that someone else has had or is having that same idea. The question is which one of you is going to do something with it?
I am workiing on several variations of squirt guns right now that I believe are very marketable. The company I targeted is very strict about reviewing submissions and it is by invitation only. Obviously they work on their own line of products internally. The chances of them having conceived of one or more of same ideas I plan on sending them is possible. So, if I send them four concepts and they say we are already working on a similar squirt gun as one of my submissions do I scream “You Blankety Blank you stole my idea!!!! I’ll sue you and all your relatives ever born!”
I have been inventing and contacting companies for several years and occasionally I will find a company that I have sent a submission that will have something similar in production and about to release it. In those instances the company has sent me a sample of the product, a CAD drawing, a listing to the patent that was filed several months before I contacted them. They have done this not because they were legally required to. They did it because I understand that this can happen and they treated me in the same professional manner I treated them. I did not scream and threaten them with a lawsuit. Most of those companies also put me on their prefered listing so I get wish lists and other coorespondence from them so I know what they are looking for, so I can focus my submissions to them more accurately.

I do a lot of research up front on the companies I approach so that I have a good feeling about who I am dealing with and their ethics in dealing with Inventors. I use the information I gather to make the best informed decision I can and understand that I am not the only Inventor on the planet.

Michelle Sartori
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rontmcc's Avatar

Roger: You are so right. I have experinced this many times. The first thing I do when I think I have that million dollar idea is search for it on the internet and that includes the patent office. My kneejerk reaction to all of my ideas is with all of the brilliant people in the world I can’t be the first.
Ron

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cbrown's Avatar

Roger, You hit the nail on the head AGAIN.I just submitted a rush idea to an LPS last week with very little research done on my part and found the exat idea last night. I could have saved myself twenty bucks..ROOKIE MISTAKE, I knew better and did it anyway. This was a crash and burn only I could have prevented and I failed to do so. The research on the front end is the most important part of the process.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Chris be glad you only lost $20. Most Inventors don’t find out what you did until after they are a couple of thousand dollars in debt to an invention submission company. Research upfront is key to success.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

When searching for their new product idea I am really confused why most Inventors do not seem to do this very well. They will send me a product idea they call lets say " extendable garden clippers". they will swear there is nothing out there like this. they have searched everywhere and can’t find a thing.
So, my first thing is to go to Google and put in every variation I can think of that name that might bring up something. Such as:

telescoping, expandable, extendable, adjustable, pruning shears, garden clippers, hedge clippers.

Then the Inventor is surprised I not only found a number of similar devices but how quickly I found them when they did a thorough search. I had a person send me a telescoping walking cane idea. He said there is nothing like this available. I put telescoping walk cane in Google and what do I get http://www.google.com/#hl=en&xhr=t&q=te... Found it in lass than a minute. He had already contacted a invention submission company and paid the initial $695 for them to do an evaluation. That was a hard lesson. Think how many entries to a EN search he could do with that money.
Inventors need to be more informed and proactive to find what is out there before throwing money away. If you just want to throw money away please send it to the Roger Brown early retirement fund. : )

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Had an Inventor contact me yesterday wanting to know what they could do about a company that stole their idea. I asked if they had sent the company any info on their product they said No. They said they had the idea three years ago, had done nothing with it, but when they went into Wal-Mart that afternoon there it was, their idea from three years ago, on the shelf. The company making it is from Canada and they live in Georgia. He has been no further North then North Carolina and has not shown or told his idea to anyone. But he is sure they stole it and wanted me to recommend a good lawyer he could use.
I want to know, where is the Satellite orbiting the Earth that companies are using to suck ideas out of our heads, so they can steal them from us and not have to pay us?

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corsaire's Avatar

Here’s a link for that poor inventor:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_foil_hat

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cowboy-joe's Avatar

prior art is a huge worry, my invention has been filed 2006
after the first 4 years you begin to relax a bit.
I wish it was just a $20 bet
at least that’s one advantage of sitting on a patent so long, “real” prior art scares become unlikely.

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thundr55's Avatar

I think many inventors don’t do thorough research because they don’t want to come to the sad realization that their idea (which could’ve been a great one) has already been discovered, patented and flopped.

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cowboy-joe's Avatar

My opinion is, learn to search like the professional searchers, then search like an amateur, then like a bloodhound then, search search. That’s got to be the priority of anyone thinking of patenting I think
afterwards if you stumble on a old cardboard box on the pavement look in it, search search search

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Tim, I agree with you. No one wants to know they got beat to the punch, but you would think they would want to know so they could stop wasting their time and money.

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bobk's Avatar

(Not sure if this has been covered before) – I recently came across another method for checking if something already exists. Go to www.quirky.com and do a search for terms related to your invention. You may find people have submitted ideas like it. That in itself is not a show-stopper. However, often in the comments people will post a link to existing products that “already do that.”

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let-them-fly's Avatar

I think I’m going to bump this thread back to the top, as there are currently those who
are concerned their idea somehow found it’s way to market after using Edison Nation.

Also included is the recent informative Blog post Is-It-Possible-Someone-Else-Has-The-Same-Idea

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davidpope2002's Avatargold

Frank, this thread reminds me of a quote I wrote in the Inspirational quotes thread…

" I know my idea is just as good as the next man idea it’s just a matter of letting the world see mine, First"!

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randomhandyman's Avatargold

This — like many of the other lessons — is a good thread. Not sure I’ve yet seen the following angle covered though: As it relates to an Edison Nation Licensed Product Search: What happens if two inventors separately and independently submit an innovation that is substantially similar to the same search?

Assuming it’s a “winner” idea:

  • Does EN run with the first one submitted?
  • Does EN run with the slightly better of the two, regardless of timing?
  • Does EN integrate the best aspects of both ideas and credit both inventors?

If it’s likely to happen between Georgia and Canada as Roger highlights below, it’s also likely to happen in EN’s highly concentrated pool of hundreds or thousands of motivated inventors! : )

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magurn's Avataren_staff_badge

Hi Jeffrey,

This question is actually addressed in our Help area – here is the response:

Sometimes, if there is a large consumer pain point, we will see a trend of similar submissions within a search to solve that problem.

In instances where we have two or more similar submissions that are finalists within a search, there are numerous factors as to why we chose to present one idea over the other. Some of these factors are: whether or not the idea has existing intellectual property and the extent of that intellectual property, quality of the submission and date the idea was submitted.

The review team takes all available information into consideration when making these decisions.

Best practice? Log in to EN often to get the latest on new searches. Keep your idea confidential and submit to us early through our secure submission system. As always, Edison Nation’s top priority is to protect the intellectual property of our community and ideas are never shared publicly.

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randomhandyman's Avatargold

Thanks for helping me find the answer Michelle!

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Been getting some emails from frustrated Inventors saying that it seems every idea they come up with is already out there. With the internet, instantaneous communication and the ability to search the globe in seconds it will get harder to find things that are not similar in nature. But looking for that unique twist or ways to make it more user friendly, cheaper, appealing to a wider consumer base will help you to stand out. Look at the cell phone. It is great product. The fastest way to get involved in this market is not to invent a new cell phone but to come up with Apps, accessories and other uses for the cell phone. Look at other markets you can add to what is already there and that will broaden your base. 

Frank White
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wilson_ks's Avatar

Here is an interesting story on this topic:

During late 2000, through January 2001, I conceived and prototyped an invention to use a blockchain to establish cryptographic-strength proof for both (1) a "no later than" date of existence and (2) no alterations since that date, for documents - such as legal documents (contracts, wills), engineering design documents (inventor's drawings and notebook PDFs) that are held in tight secrecy (so no neutral third party can vouch for their authenticity), and even website pages that could be easily altered by hackers.  I call my invention PEDDaL - public electronic document dating list.

However, I could not afford to hire a patent attorney to patent the invention.  As some of you may be aware, I had been ripped off previously for about $13,000 with a scheme that, today, would result in the patent attorney losing their PTO registration.  (At the time, there was a loophole in the PTO's ethical rules, but it has since been fixed.)  So, combining my motivation to be able to help other inventors avoid being ripped off, with my desire to get a patent on my invention, I hatched this plan:  Become a patent attorney, learn to write patent applications at law firms while getting paid to do so, treat all inventors the way I wish I would have been treated (no ripping anyone off), and when I was ready, file a patent application on my "baby".

In February of 2001, I applied to law school and then started studying for the PTO agent exam.  I started law school in August 2001, took the PTO exam in October 2001, and finished law school in December 2004.  In January 2005, after completing my Air Force Reserve 2-week tour, I began working at a law firm in Dallas and studied for the Texas bar exam, which I took in February 2005.  It was not easy learning Texas-specific state law in a matter of just a couple of weeks, while working full time in a new job - after having gone to law school in Ohio.  But I passed my first try, fortunately, and was officially a patent attorney in early 2005.

Then, I concentrated on learning as much about patents as I possibly could.  I asked every senior attorney who would, to tell me as many war stories as they had time for, and actively sought to work on projects in as many different aspects of patent practice as I could find.  I specifically tried to work with the senior attorneys whom I perceived to be the pickiest perfectionists.  And when one criticized my work, I respectfully and politely asked them to fully explain their thoughts on why their way was better.

Still, though, it took more than a year before I believed I was ready to start writing my own applications.  And even then, I wrote 8 other applications on my lesser inventions over the next 2 years, before writing the applications for my two best inventions: PEDDaL and a related one that can leverage PEDDaL.

I filed my PEDDaL patent application on April 25, 2008.  I did not immediately request early publication for that patent application.  I now REALLY wish that I had.  I did request early publication in January 2009, so it was published in April 2009.  Had I filed the request for early publication along with the initial filing, my application would have published in August of 2008.

Why is this important?

Well, on October 31, 2008 - more than 6 months after I filed my patent application for PEDDaL, but before my application published - there was a very important academic paper published to an email mailing list by Satoshi Nakamoto (an alias).

It was Bitcoin.

Bitcoin uses a blockchain to validate financial ledgers to ensure that no one tries to double spend a bitcoin.  That way, if someone buys something from you with a bitcoin, or you spend actual dollars to purchase a bitcoin, you can be certain that you obtained the bitcoin from the legitimate owner.

Well, even though Bitcoin uses the blockchain for financial ledgers, and I use it for documents and other digital files (JPGs, PDFs, DOCs, MP3s, MPGs, ...) the blockchain in Bitcoin is the same as the blockchain in PEDDaL.

Whoever it is that is using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, they came up with my exact same blockchain implementation.  We even use similar terminology.  The term "blockchain" does not appear in either my PEDDaL patent application or the Satoshi Nakamoto paper.  That term was created later as a shorthand for Satoshi Nakamoto's use of the phrase "blocks are chained".  My PEDDaL application uses the phrase "edition chain".  PEDDaL's "editions" are functionally equivalent to Bitcoin's "blocks".

So now, I can say that I invented blockchaining before Bitcoin, but unfortunately, I cannot say that I published blockchaining before Bitcoin.

Anyway, you can see  a more detailed write-up of the comparison between PEDDaL and Bitcoin at PEDDaL.com.  Look in the left column for a link titled "Comparing PEDDaL with Bitcoin".   If you want, look for US patents 8,135,714 and 8,694,473.  Those are both continuation patents, so look for the earliest priority dates under the heading "Related U.S. Application Data".

And in case you are wondering, I am not intending to sue any Bitcoin operator.  However, I have seen speculation on the internet about companies starting something up as a service to law firms that uses a blockchain to validate contracts, in case one party tries altering their copy and asserting that their altered copy is the correct one.  (This happened to Mark Zuckerberg, when someone falsely claimed ownership of Facebook)  Such a service could be very close to PEDDaL, and possibly within my patent coverage.  But I will not say anything more on that aspect of my invention.  So please no comments or questions on any anticipated enforcement of legal rights.  Please don't make me regret sharing what many people might find to be an interesting story, with valuable lessons. 

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gizmo's Avatar

Thanks for sharing youre story Kelce.

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williamj's Avatar

Thanks Kelce

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

That was quite a journey you took Kelce. Thanks for sharing it.

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sprinklerbuddy's Avatar

I've had at least a dozen people tell me they invented "Sprinkler Buddy"
years ago but never acted on it. I thank them for not acting on it!!!

Then I usually see that light bulb go off in their head when they realize how my invention really works. Sometimes the simple things are more complex than they first appear.

My patent attorney missed it as well as the USPTO examiners the first few go rounds. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get others to see the true light on something so simple.

Make sure those that look at what you have really know what you have before discarding your idea! I always had them explain it to me, then I told them what they had gotten wrong. Ahh the light bulb went off again.  Sometimes it got rather frustrating when they refused to understand!  Many will get it in their head "I know syndrome" when they actually don't know!

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williamj's Avatar

It's amazing how few people fully understand how complex simple can really be.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Leo, that is why I have repeatedly told Inventors don't take for granted everyone understands your idea. If you can't explain it in 30 seconds or less the chances are people will not GET it. Or there is so much information they miss what you are trying to say. And then you have those that think you are stupid if you don't see their vision for the product.

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sprinklerbuddy's Avatar

Been there Roger! lol

I've had some get fighting mad!  I tell them your right and slowly walk away.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Yeah, Leo it is amazing how people react to being told their baby is ugly when all you are trying to do is give your opinion and hopefully help them see what they are overlooking. Having realistic expectations is not something everyone can achieve. I have had some get so mad they stalked me for years on the internet. Had one send me a Google earth pic of my house saying " I know where you live."  And then Inventors wonder why someone is reluctant to help them.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Talked with an Inventor over the weekend that said he is just going to quit inventing. I asked ..why? He said he was tired of seeing everything he comes up with already on the market. As we talked further it was apparent to me that he was maybe approaching it in a manner that worked against him.

First I told him he should take it as a good sign  that what he is coming up with is already on the market since it is showing he is thinking in the right direction, just others are beating him to market. 

The second was that he was not really looking at what was already on the market before coming up with his ideas. So I took him with me to a couple of stores in the market he is targeting and we looked at all the things that are out there and what issues he saw they were solving. It also showed him that some ideas he had in the back of his mind were already being addressed. But it also showed him areas he feels can still be worth targeting.

In my opinion I feel it is in the Inventor's best interest to visit stores or online that carry similar items so you can know what you are competing against and focus on the areas you see that are not being addressed.

Frank White
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williamj's Avatar

It occurs to me that, in reading your post, there are probably several different reasons to invent and several different types of inventors to go along with those several different reasons.

First, as indicated by your post (I believe), this inventor was strictly ‘market’ orientated. His sole reason to invent was for market success, a valid reason to be sure.

Secondly, would come the ‘invent for solving a problem”. It’s immaterial whether or not the inventor goes looking for a problem to solve or just solves problems that cause him/her difficulties.

And the third inventor would be those who (like me) basically have ideas just “pop” into their heads and then think,” yeah… that’ll work!”

It’s like how we learn. There are three basic ways to learn; there are visual learners, auditory learners and tactile learners. The first learns best by “seeing” things, the second learns best by “hearing” things and the third learns best by “doing” things.

Not that those learners are one hundred percent one way or the other; it’s more of a balance of all three with one being more dominant than the others.

Just as in inventing, we do not always invent for a specific reason but one way always gets the ‘juices’ flowing better than the other ways.

I feel that the better we understand ourselves as inventors the better we all can invent.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

William, great post. I would add that all three versions you mentioned have a common thread. They all need to not just know themselves but know the target they are going after. Because no matter how much you know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses you still need to know your competition and what has come before you.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Got an email recently from an Inventor depressed that the last five ideas they had are already on the market. Told them not to be depressed. That just means you are thinking in  the right area. Unfortunately someone else beat you to it. 

You just need to keep moving forward until you find that idea that is unique, marketable and will stand out in the crowd.

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rogerbrown's Avatargold

Had an Inventor contact me about their frustration with a company they have been contacting and sending product ideas. Their frustration was that they had sent 3 separate ideas to this company and were shot down each time with the company sending them a link saying this product already exists. They wanted to know what they are doing wrong and how they can get the company to accept one of their ideas.

I thought this was a good example that needs to be shared with other Inventors.

First they should be happy the company took the time to send them a link to a similar product and letting them know why they are saying No and what is already out there. Most companies would just send you a form letter saying not interested.

Second, it shows the Inventor is not doing very much, if any, research on their idea and letting the company tell what is out there. At some point the company will tell the Inventor to stop sending them ideas because they are wasting their time and resources. This same situation is why companies stop being open to outside ideas.

Before you approach EN or any company with a product idea do your due diligence to make sure as best you can that the idea is unique and marketable. Otherwise expect a RED X or a no from the company.

Thom C
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countofmontecristo's Avatargold

Some very good information in this thread, esp Kelce and Rodger. Thanks for sharing- not everyone likes to talk about their ships that sank or craft that crashed and burned.  As long as you LEARN from that experience, then it was not a total loss.

The very fact the other people can and will eventually think of the 'same thing' that you did is another example of *why* strong patents are powerful things.  Even if you don't have the time, money or resources to get your great idea in the market at least you can take the first step to protect it.  When that other party comes along (and they will) they find out that YOU have already 'been there, done that'.  

3 possible outcomes from that scenario are:

1. The other party throws up their hands, walks away and mumbles to themselves for awhile. 

2. They study your patent (if published/granted) and see how they can get around it.

3. They see your product is not on the market and maybe contact you wondering why?

Timing IS everything, and just because an idea is not 100% marketable right now, does not mean it will never be.  It really can be all about the timing. (Just ask Kelce)

 By getting your patents in order first you are looking at a long term ROI, not just a make-a-buck-quick deal. 

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