Jul 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm #1292002
Hey everyone. I had a question about the etiquette of asking folks on BPL if they would be willing to be beta testers for an incredibly revolutionary product that will change the face of UL backpacking forever. OK, I definitely made that last part up.
Before I go further I will say that I have submitted a question to the BPL admin folks about not messing up their dedication to non-commercial uses of BPL, and I am sure I will hear from them soon, but since it has been a couple of weeks I hope it is not rude to ask the question here. I also didn't find any FAQ type answers, but perhaps I missed something. The odds of this being a commercialized product set are definitely about one in ten bazillion, but I didn't want to cross any clear rules on this front.
The short story: I have some definitely unique, and perhaps even not absolutely horrible design ideas on MYOG gear stuff. Also, I really think it would be cool to have a patent. Even a provisional one. So here is the best case for me: 1) I apply for a couple of provisional patents (already mostly done, this initial part is cheap at least). 2) I recruit some BPL folks to try it out, by sending them working prototypes for free. 3) The idea turns out to be a horrible one,no one would be hurt or anything, just potentially annoyed at carrying a bad idea out onto the trail. 4) The patent office grants my cheap patent because it is just a horrible idea, hence no one has thought it worth pursuing before. 5) I proudly carry my unique and poor idea around on the trail,and maybe mention my patent pending or whatever a few times at cocktail parties.
Anyway, my ideas are definitely unique, which probably means bad. I am OK with that. I really just like making my own stuff. But this seemed like an opportunity to just mess around a bit and justify purchases, etc.
So that is a long way of asking, would it be rude to ask/solicit potential beta testers for my world beating innovative products that will transform UL hiking forever (for free of course)? At this point I am hoping that my designs are just so impracticable that I can both have a cheapish patent pending, but also have at least one or two people think it was kind of cool. Plus my patents would be air-tight, as they could be pending forever w/o the real expense of a full patent….anyway I digress.
Sorry to go on so long. Mostly this whole patent thing has been an excuse to hike more and buy and sew and beta test all sorts of things and materials that I could never explain to my wife otherwise. Perhaps that is what I should have said first.
Anyway, there are probably a thousand posts here where someone has invented sliced bread or the wagon wheel (I have read many). As above, my belief is that the best possible outcome is that my idea is just good for me. Thanks all for suggestions, and feel free to tell me to not bother and just have fun MYOGing. That's basically what my wife tells me so you would definitely be on the right side of that issue. But who doesn't like free stuff? And can I borrow one of your patents?…)
TimJul 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm #1894818
Ken T.BPL Member
Any hint on what you would like people to test? Clothing, packs, shelters, stoves, etc…Jul 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm #1894820
Seriously though it is a system for regular tarp users who are sometimes interested in having bug protection and bathtub floor, but not always. It has some clever bits, but also some very impractical ones (as my 13-year old pointed out this weekend). Probably 1 MM people have already had the same idea, although I can promise that my bad ideas on this front will be at least distinctive. Still hoping for a failure, but not a colossal one…actually a colossal one would be good, just not a catastrophic one. Maybe I should just send something to you and Henry and you can tell me that my ideas were awesome and I have a 'patent' on it, maybe 'patent #12345' or something. That would definitely be cheaper. And then I can just enjoy my TT Moment and the trail.Jul 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm #1894821
Just ask for anyone interested in testing your gear to PM or email you. Nothing wrong, not breaking any rules, no real 'etiquette.' Nike, dude, Nike.Jul 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm #1894822
I don't know why I typed Franco, I was looking at your post at the time. I guess I just was thinking team TT. Time to go to bed on the East Coast, I guess.Jul 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm #1894823
Ken T.BPL Member
It's all good. I only asked because it might be easier to find testers if they knew what they are testing. Interests are individual. We got stove guys, shelter guys, people who like lights etc…Jul 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm #1894833
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Just do what you want until someone tells you not to do it, which will probably never happen
Yeah, give more info if you want to get anyone interested in testing it
I am only superficially familiar with patents, but if you divulge too much, then it's public, so you can't patent it
I've thought about patenting things but it seemed like just too much work. But I have no desire to commercialize anything. It would be cool to have a patent.Jul 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm #1894837
drowning in spamMember
Timeline might help too as people tend to hike more or less depending on the time of year. I personally don't spend much time on the trail this time of year. It's a good time for me to gain weight and lift a lot of weight, but not a great time to offer to test your gear.Jul 15, 2012 at 5:18 am #1894852
I wouldn't mind testing whatever it is you're making. I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to do so anytime soon, but I'm currently making a tarptent, so your invention may come in handy. Even if it won't, it's always interesting to see what other people come up with.Jul 15, 2012 at 9:06 am #1894876
I am going to work on a few to send out. Those who contacted me I'll definitely hit up 1st.
Why didn't I think of doing this in the winter when I was going to be inside anyway..)
TimJul 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm #1895309
I'm really into stoves/cooking stuff and shelters, and would be interested in trying out some of your stuff.Jul 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm #1895328
Jordo _99BPL Member
I'd also be interested in beta testing.
Just let me know.Jul 16, 2012 at 7:47 pm #1895330
@pc730Locale: Southern Oregon
I would definitely be interested in trying what you got. Im always interested in new innovative ideas. PM meJul 17, 2012 at 10:05 am #1895418
Seeking a patent is really not worth it in the ultra light backpacking equipment . I guarantee you someone has made it or thought of it already and patent is only good for 10 years and additional 10 years renewal and person or company only needs to change the design by 10% to avoid patent infringement.
Now trademarking a names that were it at less expensive to research and cheaper to do and most large companies will respect that. Also they will change their design copy of your equipment by 20% to play it on the safe side in case it goes to court .
TerryJul 18, 2012 at 9:37 am #1895674
I would certainly be interested in testing out new gear. I love to analyze the pluses and cons of gear. I'm new to BackpackingLight but I recently found out about this site from over on HammockForums where I'm active.Jul 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm #1898030
@hhopeLocale: East Bay
Just because the patent office doesn't actually really check very well when you apply for a patent doesn't mean that prior art doesn't exist. The best way to get free prior art checks done is to try to patent something that everyone in the area knows has existed for a long time, then they research it and provide the prior art example, and pooof, no patent. I'm actually glad that the myog people I like to give money to don't get into this game, it's refreshing.
All anyone has to do is dig up a forum thread where someone discussed or mentioned the idea you had prior to the patent being granted, then your patent is invalid.
This stuff comes up all the time in the software world (due to a horrible decision by the courts to allow software as a patentable item, along with business methods), but with something with such a limited and finite set of actual things you can make or design, the odds are really high that the stuff has already been made or invented by some diy or myog type years ago, only they never really cared about it in terms of trying to lock in the idea for profit.
The current patent system is really sloppy, so obvious and self-evident patents are granted all the time, sadly, so it could be worth a try, but it's unlikely to make you many friends long term.
More manufactured items that actually are unique because of some new technique or technology on the other hand stand a chance, things like stoves, climbing tools (like what Jardine invented, for example), etc that might have a new design or something.Jul 28, 2012 at 11:55 am #1898212
Harald said: "The current patent system is really sloppy, so obvious and self-evident patents are granted all the time, sadly, so it could be worth a try, but it's unlikely to make you many friends long term".
Your correct on that and it's funny you mention Ray Jardine he is the perfect example of what can happen to a person . Ray only has one patent for a spring loaded camming device for rock climbing .
Ray still has a bad taste in his mouth on the Golite deal he did to bring ultra light weight backpacking equipment to the masses.
When Ray quit working for Golite he has made enemies saying people are copying all his ideas that he did not patent. In his books he suggest you should take the name tag off all your products.
I even had manufacture get mad at me through PM for a one off bandoleer type backpack that Chris Zimmer prototyped for him. I explained the pack I made was for my personal use only you can see a photo of the pack in my avatar photo. So it started a misunderstanding over MYOG project.
Almost every form of a backpacking gear has been made over the years so it hard to get patent for a product and very costly for vanity sake. So if a person copies and patent a MYOG project a person made because they were to lazy they will make enemies.
Also most of the MYOG people consider their project ideas as gifts to the group and the group is Gear think tank to learn from. The members that do go in to business for themselves we are very proud of them to be able to make a living on products and ideas that have been around for years.
Ray Jatdine climbers friend patent:
TerryJul 29, 2012 at 6:31 am #1898354
To the OP, don't let these last two posters rain on your parade. I have a patent on an ultralight piece of gear that pays all my bills. I am not rich, but I sure do have an easy job. Take Packa out of box, print postage, drop in mailbox—takes about 10 minutes a day. I sell on average about 1 every two days.
Sounds like you are on the right track. Make some up and let some trusted friends check them out. If you get a good response–go for it. I agree with the vainity angle. You almost have to approach it that way, because you really don't know if it will make money. When I was at your stage I also told myself I didn't care if it made money, I just wanted to be able to say I had a patented invention.
I would recommend not getting the provisional patent. Not worth it in my opinion. You can document (protect) your idea without getting a provisional. Either way, with or without a provisional, you are time limited to officially file for a patent–exactly one year.
If you haven't done so, do a patent search on line. You can do everything a lawyer can do at the USPTO website and googlepatents. Definitely do a search before you file a provisional.
If you want to discuss this in more detail, contact me through my Packa website.
http://www.thepacka.comJul 29, 2012 at 6:43 am #1898357
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
How do you protect your idea without provisional patent?Jul 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm #1898406
I was not aware of your Packa that's a pretty original design of combo Poncho/Pack cover/ Jacket it really cool idea worthing getting the product patented.
I was reacting to the suggestion of Harald's posting that people could get patents on equipment that people in this MYOG forum designed and made for personal use,Shared the idea for anyone to use for free.
Because the original designer did not want to get a patent, they were to lazy, did not have the money to get a patent. I think that kind of actions by people would be a bad thing for MYOG crowd we would quit sharing are ideas.
I look forward to Tim the original posters and his new ideas he will get patent and may sell one day.
Like I posted in one post it is very hard to find backpacking equipment that has not been made before sometime in history.
I remember back in the Late 70's early 80's a company who came out with Ultra light weight backpacking gear . The packs were sky blue color made out of 1.9 oz.ripstop looked similar to Ray way type packs like we use now. They had ultra light weight sleeping bags, parkas and other gear. Their pitch line was" Backpacking Gear light as a Cloud" They had one problem most of people were using their old heavy gear still and the packs were ripping apart. I really wish I could remember the name of the company.
I was even designing and making ultra light weight day packs back in 1993 made out of 1.9oz. ripstop nylon similar to Ray Jardines for day hikes,I did not have a computer back then i had no knowledge of what was going on in backpacking. I just like making my own equipment and it all started with the Frostline equipment sleeping bag kit I made when I was 11 years old in boy scouts.
Oregon photos has the most comprehensive history of backpacking gear and the companies. You look through it ultra light is not a new idea. Backpackers have always tried to lighten up their gear.
TerryJul 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm #1898409
You can get a patent on almost anything.
Whether or not it is worth having is a different story.
It is also only worth what you are willing to spend to defend it if needed.
Dont be so sure your concepts are totally unique until you have done exhaustive research, of past products as well as patents. There has to be no prior art, as well as no prior patents.
The US patent database makes for some mighty interesting reading if you have never poked around.
Many , many patents will leave you scratching your head saying "what kind of idiot would patent that???"
My all time favorite, is the bullet with a hole drilled in it. The user tied a string to it, the other end to a tooth that needs pulling, and fired it out of a revolver. No $hit.Jul 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm #1898451
All you have to do is document your idea in some "officially dated" way. For the Packa, all I did was the old timey write a description of my invention, had 2 witnesses sign and date it, and sent it off in a letter to myself. The post mark becomes your official date. Don't open the letter. Probably a better approach would be to simply have it notorized. Even posting a description and pictures here on BPL would do the trick. You might think someone could steal your idea, but actually just the opposite is true– you just documented it was your idea. I wouldn't do it that way. But, that is the way it works as I understand it. Regardless of how you do it, you have exactly 1 year to file from the day you "officially date" your idea. If you don't file for a patent within one year, no one can–not even you. Your idea becomes public domain.
I'm not trying to bust your balls, but in your first post on this thread you stated
"Seeking a patent is really not worth it in the ultra light backpacking equipment".
I didn't get the borrowing of a MYOG idea and trying to patent it from the OP. He said in his OP that he had a "unique" idea. I was just trying to encourage the OP to follow his dream. Also you said someone could change your idea by 10% and get around your patent. I disagree. If you have a patent lawyer worth his salt, this won't happen. The patent claims are the key, by far the most important part of a patent. For example, if you look at my claims for the Packa patent you will see language like "the the packcover is 30 inches tall, MORE OR LESS". These words are probably not actually in my patent claims–just trying to make a point. You just can't change a little thing like a dimension and get around a patent. If you have a good lawyer, you shouldn't have to worry about this. That's the whole point of having a patent. If it was so easy to design around it, no one would ever get a patent.
Cedar TreeJul 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm #1898457
@hhopeLocale: East Bay
I didn't get that sense either, from the OP or Terry, rather, it's just that most ideas have been done when it comes to this stuff, so the odds are, someone has done it. That would go for your idea too, it's just such a small market with so little at stake that it's literally not worth spending the time a prior art search would require. I suspect 'borrowing' is more that there is just this pool of stuff people have done, and at some point, something almost everyone comes up with borrows from that pool of collective knowledge, like, oh, making something out of cuben or silnylon, for example.
In a sense this would be agreeing with you, given the relatively dismal state of the patent office and what they grant, if you can get a patent on something before someone else does, and if the market is small enough so that nobody else really exerts much energy to demonstrate it invalid, you're right, it really is your patent, and it would be a relative headache with relatively few rewards to try to get rid of it. So that does work. One of the more famous cases of patenting something so obvious nobody ever thought it worthwhile is amazon's 'one click purchase' patent, which I believe is still holding up. That is similar literally to patenting the use of silnylon in outdoor gear.
Personally I doubt your own business success has much to do with the patent, I suspect it's just a nice idea that's nicely done, like most cottage gear is, and the market is so small, as your numbers show, that it's not really worth trying to compete there, and certainly not worth trying to get into some patent thing that will never repay the legal and research costs. And there does seem to be a certain ethical standard among most myog cottage types, ie, in general they try to do their own things largely, give or take. And if you get sick of doing it, you might be able to sell the patent to some other company for some amount at some point, at which point you'd probably discover the actual value of the patent. Probably not a good idea to depend on that for retirement I'd guess…
Jardine's case was interesting, I have a climber friend, used to be world class in his younger days, that certainly grants the high value of the Climber's Friend device, that was unique and did change climbing, but he laughs at the notion of unique backpacking gear that is patentable, observing, largely correctly, that it really has been done before in almost all cases, but that shouldn't stop someone from trying to patent some idea I suppose, though personally I dislike such patent activity, but it is something one can do in the modern day USA if one is so inclined, ie, it's a loophole that can be exploited.
Jardine's later complaints though, those are just silly, his entire point was to make simple light gear that was easy to sew and easy to deal with, and to free you from corporate type outdoor equipment clutter and waste, and thus be, almost by definition, generic, I read his book a while ago, can't remember which one, an earlier one, and it was all about simple and obvious ideas that anyone could do. A tarp, a quilt, a bag style backpack? Give me a break. He just got older and needed to find a way to fund his lifestyle, that's all, and he'd sold his actually unique ideas long ago, and burned the golite bridge, which I'm sure happened for good reasons.Aug 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm #1899412
Bob ShaverBPL Member
I'm a patent attorney. Some comments to to correct misinformation follow:
patents are good for 20 years from the date they are filed. You have to pay a maintenance fee at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years.
with a provisional application, it never turns into an issued patent, all you get is a filing receipt. There is no content requirement, but its a good idea to have a really complete disclosure with claims and informal drawings
its not easy to get a patent, its darn hard. I'd wish I knew some of those easy patent examiners.
patents are totally not worth it, unless the product is a good one and has the potential to make some money. If the product develops into a real business, you'll wish you had a patent. If you think your product has no chance of being commercially successful, might as well not get a patent. There are 4 reasons to get a patent:
1. as a wall hanger, souvenir, learning experience
2. as an asset to your company, to add value to the company when it is sold
3. to keep a competitor from knocking off a profitable product, in case your product develops into a profitable item. Unfortunately, you have to file the patent application before the product becomes profitable
4. to keep from getting sued by a competitor for infringing their patent
mailing a letter to yourself is evidence in proving date of first use or conception. Its not a patent and doesn't offer any protection to your product. Proving date of conception is of value to show that you were using it before a competitor's patent was filed. But like any evidence, its value depends on how easily it can be faked. So something can be evidence, but not very good evidence. There is way better evidence than that.
To get a patent a device has to be new (never been done anywhere), and not obvious. being "non-stupid" is not required.
If you get a patent and the product gets knocked off, your leverage is that you can license it to a bigger company, and the company knocking it off would probably like to get an exclusive license to the patent, so they can keep others out of that market. If you don't have a patent, you have nothing to license to a bigger company who can develop sales faster than you can.Aug 1, 2012 at 11:29 pm #1899432
robert vBPL Member
@mtnbob123Locale: Upstate South Carolina
i would be happy to test and report back on whatever you need.
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