Monday, January 27, 2014

Wants to Protect Music Method

Dear Rich: I'm contacting you regarding IP patents for a product I have recently put into commercial format. What I am trying to protect is a unique pedagogical approach involving music and language. There is currently no commercial product that uses this system. I have used and developed my unique method over the last ten years After some research, my understanding is that I have a year to determine whether my product is commercially viable after applying for a provisional patent which I did this month. My question is: What constitutes evidence that a product is commercially viable in order to become eligible for a regular patent? I have been using the IP for the past 10 years and it is my primary source of income. Now that I have it in product format (an audio instructional CD for acquiring a creative skill) I would like to know how I can document the commercial use of it. Is it just through sales of the product? If so, how much constitutes viability? Can I use the classes that I teach using this IP as evidence of commercial viability? We're glad you're making money from your concept and we'd like to see you continue to do so. However, we're not sure there is a patent in your future. That's because the USPTO won't grant patents if the subject of an application has been publicly disclosed by an inventor more than one year prior to filing a patent application. If you've been using this method to teach for ten years, that would probably be a disqualifying public disclosure.
Determining commercial viability. Although we recommend determining commercial viability before filing a patent application -- it can save you thousands in fees -- it's not a prerequisite for patent protection. There are many ways to assess commercial viability for an innovation and in his book, Patent It Yourself, David Pressman lists over 60 factors that can make a difference such as cost, ease of use, ease of production, durability, convenience, novelty, etc.  Many of these innovation factors may not be applicable to a music-teaching system and you can probably get a relatively reasonable perspective by reviewing the music-teaching systems industry -- that is, the sale of instructional book, CDs, DVDs and apps. If you have the funds to have someone else review an innovation, two independent invention evaluation services considered reputable by Pressman are: the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, and the I2 Innovation Institute. Otherwise, avoid invention promotion scams.
Copyright and Trademark. You can't stop others from using your publicly disclosed ideas but you can stop others from copying the way you express those ideas using copyright law -- for example, your books and CDs on the subject. And, if you can register the name of your system as a trademark, you can prevent others from using a similar name. You can't stop others from discussing the underlying principles of your method as we wrote about in a recent post.

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