• It’s not obvious . It has to be sufficiently different from everything that’s been used for the purpose in the past (you can’t patent a new color for a cell phone). • It has utility . It can’t be useless; it must have some value. Applying for a U.S. patent is only the first step. If you plan to export your product outside the United States, you’ll need patent protection in each country in which you plan to do business, and as you’ve no doubt guessed, getting a foreign patent isn’t any easier than getting a U.S. patent. The process keeps lawyers busy: during a three-year period, PowerSki International had to take out more than eighty patents 17. Grant of the exclusive right to produce or sell a product, process, or invention. Chapter 10 Product Design and Development 560
on the PowerSki Jetboard. It still has a long way to go to match the number of patents issued to some extremely large corporations. Microsoft, for example, recently obtained its ten thousandth patent.Ina Fried, “Microsoft Gets 10,000th Patent,” CNET News , (accessed October 28, 2011). Clearly, the patent business is booming. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued more than a half million patents in 2010.U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, (accessed October 29, 2011). One reason for the recent proliferation of patents is the high-tech boom: over the last decade, the number of patents granted has increased by more than 50 percent. KEY TAKEAWAYS • You can protect your rights to your idea with a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. • A patent grants you “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States for twenty years. • To be patentable, an invention must meet all the following criteria: it’s new (no one else can have known about it, used it, or written about it before you filed your patent application); it’s not obvious (it’s sufficiently different from everything that’s been used for the purpose in the past); and it has utility (it must have some value; it can’t be useless). EXERCISE (AACSB) Analysis A friend of yours described a product idea she had been working on. It is a child’s swing set with a sensor to stop the swing if anyone walks in front of it. She came to you for advice on protecting her product idea. What questions would you need to ask her to determine whether her product idea is patentable? How would she apply for a patent? What protection would the patent give her? How long would the patent apply? Chapter 10 Product Design and Development 10.8 Protecting Your Idea 561
10.9 Cases and Problems Chapter 10 Product Design and Development 562
LEARNING ON THE WEB (AACSB) Breaking Even on Burgers You and your business partner plan to open a gourmet burger restaurant. Your partner estimated the new business will sell a hundred fifty thousand burgers during its first year and a half of operations. You want to determine the number of burgers you must sell to break even during this period.
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