Ronni talks about her experience with applying for her own patent as well as her upbringing with her inventor father and his patents. Are patents necessarily bad?
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Ronni: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Ronni.
Ronni: So, we just finished doing a podcast talking about intellectual property, which covered things like trademarks and copyrights, and a little bit about patents. But I wanted to talk a little bit more about patents specifically because you want to know a fun fact about me.
Brittany: I want to hear it.
Ronni: Oh, actually, I have two fun facts about me and patents. So, several years back when I had my second child and he was a baby, I decided to apply for a patent. I came up with this idea for this baby product. Really? Yes. So, in looking back, it seems kind of silly, but it was for a pacifier holder that you could attach so that it would hold the pacifier right at a newborn’s mouth when they turn their head and they could move their head back and there’d be a pacifier, almost like a mic stand that was attached to them, or harmonica stance.
Brittany: That is so cool.
Ronni: So, I decided, because this is something that I would’ve loved for me having a newborn, I came up with this whole idea and I created some prototypes, and then I decided to go through the patent process to learn about it. I ended up, I filed, my provisional patent does a provisional, I was going to say, I’d talk about all the details. So, a provisional patent is what, when you’re in the process of inventing something, but you haven’t totally designed it yet, but you just have the idea, you can file a provisional patent. This means you kind of put it on record, although it’s hidden on record, you file it, but it doesn’t get published. So, the world can’t see it yet, but you still get it documented that you are coming up with this idea and that you want one year to develop your product. At the end of that one year, your provisional patent will become published. If you have not filed for a full patent by that time, then anything that you had in the provisional patent now becomes worldwide knowledge. And anybody can use it in its public domain. But if you file a real patent.
Brittany: So, it’s almost like you put it on hold.
Ronni: Yes. You say like you dibs it, you kind of call dibs. Exactly. But if you do that, it gives you only a year to come up with something more solid. So, if you’re developing something that has many more parts, you’re not going to file a provisional patent until you are much closer to the end product. Because mine was a silly little baby item, it was easy for me to file the provisional patent before I did the full patent. But still, I did decide to follow up a year later by filing a full patent. A lot of people stop after the provisional. Provisional patents are fairly easy to file, but if you want to go any deeper than that, a lot of times people will get lawyers involved. I did most of the drafting myself because I will explain why I had a little more experience with it. So I filed the full patent, but I was missing a few claims, which are a part of the patent. The details are unnecessary to go through right now, but the point is that I ended up not filing some information that I needed to. I decided to let my patent become abandoned. But if you go and search for patents, you can look at my name and there’s this baby pacifier stand.
Brittany: So, wait, why did you never end up? It was just too, why didn’t you become a good business owner?
Ronni: Good question. So, in my process of discovering this item, or when you’re filing for a patent, a full patent, not just the provisional, the full patent, which is a lot more work, you have to do an exhaustive, seriously exhaustive search of every patent ever, any public domain invention, ever.
Brittany: Make sure that you’re not copying someone.
Ronni: Yes, you have to be able to show that you and whatever new novel parts of your product have truly never been created before. So, because I was inventing something about a pacifier, which is a baby product, that has been around for so long, and many people are trying to come up with baby products, I had to do a lot of searching, and I really learned, oh, all about the whole history of pacifier, like objects.
Brittany: That might have to be a whole episode, just because you have the knowledge.
Ronni: I feel like I’m going to talk too much about this. Okay. So, lemme try to summarize it all. I let the patent become abandoned because I found from the 1980s a patent, it was like a German patent that had also been abandoned. But the one part of my patent that was the truly unique part was already mentioned in this other patent. So when I discovered that, I knew, Ooh, I really have no chance of getting this patent, and I decided not to pursue it anymore. So, that’s kind of why I did that. But okay, let me jump to my next part, my next fun fact. So growing up, my dad was kind of an inventor.
Brittany: I should mention, I’m going to back up. Did we actually say, spell out what a patent is?
Ronni: Oh, you know what? We talked about it in the previous
Brittany: Episode. We did, but we did.
Ronni: Talk about it now. Yeah.
Brittany: Do you want to do a quick little refresher?
Ronni: Sure. So, if you invent something, you file this reports with the US Patent Office, and there’s a world patent office too, and you say, I invented this thing. And then if anyone else tries to sell that exact same product, you go, Hey, I made this first. I claimed it first. This is mine to sell for however many years. It’s 1620, I can’t remember how many years, but that’s what a patent does. It’s just a protection on a brand new invented item that only the inventor can make it and sell it until the time limit runs up.
Ronni: So, my dad was a mechanical design engineer, and so he created all these little parts and valves and things. So, my dad was always carrying around the sketchbook and drawing. Anyways long story short, he has tin patents now. So I grew up always knowing about the idea of patents, and I always thought it was really cool that my dad had invented something and was the first person to invent it this way. So, those are my fun facts about patents. So, in our previous episode, we talked about intellectual property, and Brittany, you were talking about some of the, of why some people are against intellectual property protections. Do you want to quickly go over those real fast?
Brittany: So, for those, and there’s a lot of us that, again, this is a very polarizing topic it splits people down the middle. A lot of passionate beliefs in this. So, those who are against intellectual property, they worry that it actually, interferes with the free market and that it shouldn’t be government-protected. So, let’s say that I created a product and then you created a product and they were very similar, and with intellectual property protections, I could sue you and say, I think you stole my idea. But somebody who was against it would say, no, you just need to market it better, or you need to be better. Not just the product, right? The product isn’t the only thing that sells itself, it’s the package, it’s the marketing behind it. It’s being a little bit better, maybe taking that idea and adding something. So, for someone against it, they would say that by having the government protect intellectual property, it’s actually stopping market competition from really flourishing and being more as innovative as it could be. There’s also a problem with people stealing ideas, Nicola Tesla had this great idea that was amazing, and somebody stole his work, literally stole his work, and ran to the patent office and they patented it. And then he ended up dying penniless because he couldn’t make any money off of his incredible inventions. So, there’s some really big issues with it, and this causes a really big stir in the liberty world because there are some people who are very much against the government protecting intellectual property, and then there’s people who are very much for it. They see no, there are some reasons that this is similar to regular property. So, yeah, it’s a really interesting topic that you will always get people riled up. So, if you want a good conversation, just go into a room full of liberty-minded people and say intellectual property, and see what happens.
Ronni: Well, I think that’s why it’s good that we’re talking about this, and that’s why I think it’s interesting that we’re talking about both sides because it is, it’s complex and there’s many different ways to look at things sometimes.
Brittany: And I think it’s good too for a lot of topics that way. We’ve talked a lot on this show about learning how to disagree with people and learning how to have productive conversations. And just because somebody says, I am an individual for this, there are going to be some issues you probably don’t agree with, right? There’s going to be little things. So, I think it’s really important to have conversations, especially with those of us who mostly agree on everything, but there might be a thing or two that we have different opinions on. So, I think that’s always good.
Ronni: One thing about patents that some people look at negatively, which wasn’t mentioned, is, well, I guess maybe we touched on it but is that sometimes if someone patents something, let’s say a medicine or something, then they can charge exorbitant amounts of money for it just because they can and because it’s the only one available. And so I can see how that’s also something that could be maybe a negative about intellectual property protections. But then I put this into terms of thinking about my own father and the things that he created because his livelihood was selling these parts that he had designed and created because he could. And so I suppose you could say, well, what if my dad then decided to be super greedy and charge an exorbitant amount of money for these parts? Well, then this is where the free market might come in, where someone else could go, I don’t want to pay that much money for this. Is there a way I can create it differently? And when you talk about patents, all that you have to do is have one small, unique part, and as long as the most unique part of your creation hasn’t been done before, then you can get a patent on it. So, there’s still ways kind of around that, I guess.
Brittany: I have a question about that then, because one of the biggest things that comes up with this topic is prescription medicine. And with medicine, they usually have a certain amount of time so there’s a name brand that’s usually expensive. That’s a person who has the patent, and then the, or is it a trade secret? I don’t know which one, but has the intellectual property rights. And then you have a generic brand, which is an off-brand. After a certain amount of time, certain medicine is allowed to be produced by generic brand companies. Now that doesn’t mean that actually is the same formula then, right? It’s just a different name because they have to wait until.
Ronni: I believe so I’m not as familiar with the medical side of it or the chemical side of it, so I can only guess. I don’t know as much.
Brittany: No worries. Just wondering.
Ronni: But though, one other thing, I know we’re kind of getting used to the end of our podcast, but the one other thing that I also think about when I think about something like patents is yes, we can say in some cases, just like you brought up with Tesla, someone can create this, but then someone else steals it and goes and patents it first. And of course, I think that is wrong, and maybe there’s a way in which we could have a better patent system. So something like that couldn’t happen. But I think also that patents, patents can help innovation. Again, I’m going back to thinking of my dad and the things that he created. He spent so much time designing, thinking about prototyping, creating, and perfecting all of these things to create these parts and to patent these parts. He was able to spend so much time doing this because he knew that he could get that protection so that all of the efforts that he put into creating it could be protected until he was able to get enough of a financial investment or get enough money back to make up for all the effort that he put into it. And I wonder sometimes if we didn’t have patent protections if, on one hand, I could see how it could produce more innovative ideas, but on the other hand, I wonder if it would deter some people from wanting to think of new ideas. Because if they just thought, I’m going to spend years coming up with this idea that only I can come up with in my head, but as soon as I come up with it, someone’s going to see it and then immediately copy it, it would make me feel like, why should I put forth all the effort to come up with this then, especially if you’re not going to be able to recoup any money and investment that you put into the process for a while. So, all in all, I think this topic, there’s pros and cons, and I think it’s interesting to talk about because it is contested in the liberty world. So yeah, I think all in all, innovation is a great thing, and I think figuring out the best ways to be able to be free to innovate is really the ultimate goal. Whether that be through protections, not protections. I don’t have the answer.
Brittany: No, I think, yeah, no, I think that’s, and we talked about this a couple of episodes ago where you said it’s okay to just be like, I don’t know. Yeah, I do not know the answer to that. Right. So, no, I think that’s great. We will wrap it up there. And again, we will do some more episodes on this because I do want to get into the controversy on both sides of the argument. I think that’s really interesting. This is a topic that took me well into my twenties to understand because it is complex. So, you guys are way out of the game. And I’m in my thirties now and I barely understand it. So, way ahead of the game. Thank you guys for listening so much. We’ll wrap it up there. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and share the podcast. And until next time, we will talk to you later.
Ronni: All right, see you soon.