Can I patent a product if I am using someone else's materials? Am I be able to patent the use or my "idea"? Thank you
State/Country relating to question: Illinois
Yes, absolutely. You can patent an innovatIve use of someone else's product, and you can patent your own cool idea even if it is made up of other people's inputs.Hope that helps.
I would like to explain my situation and would like your advice on how best to proceed.
I'm an accountant and have come up with an innovative idea for a product. I am not in research and develpment. I presented my idea to the company and they love it. We are looking into getting samples and marketing the product. I would like to protect my idea and negotiate with my company.
If my company decides to market this, I'm not sure what I should do?
When you showed it to them, did you discuss at all what rights you would have, what they would do for you, etc.? Does your employment contract say anything about what rights your employer gets by default? (If you are in accounting and your idea is not at all about accounting, then probably your employment contract does not cover this.)
Regardless, if the company is already moving forward with your idea, then it strikes me that you have something of potentially real value -- and that means you need a local lawyer, now, to look at (a) the possible patent application and (b) the contract and other relationship issues between you and your employer. On the latter topic, not only do you need to look at your contract, but also you need to look at what implicit and explicitl agreements were made when you showed them the idea and they began to implement it with you. You need also to watch our for any claim by your employer that your employer "co-invented" or in other ways helped improve the idea. All of this needs to be addressed immediately with your own lawyer, not a company lawyer, because your interests and theirs do NOT overlap.
The good news for you is that you already know that this idea is likely real and valuable; most inventors have to spend money on their lawyer before they know if any company is even plausibly interested in their ideas. The bad news is that you have a mess at the moment, given that you have started an undefined relationship with your employer; and you also have started a 1-year clock on filing that patent, because (arguably) when you showed it to the employer you engaged in an act that starts what is called a "statutory bar" -- in essence, a 1-year clock to file or give up.
So, hurry up, find a local patent lawyer, make sure that lawyer can also help you on issues of employment (ask about "shop rights" and employment contracts, and make sure your lawyer can give you good, clean answers), and then dig into the details quick. This is a good opportunity quite possibly but you need a lawyer NOW.
Thank you for your advice. At the time I came up with the idea, I sent an email to them saying I have an idea and they replied thanks why don't you present it at the product meeting. Nothing was discussed at all on what they would do for me or any rights I have.
I do not have an employment contract with them at all. Based upon the "work-for-hire" doctrine, I believe I would still have the rights to my idea. I have emails documenting my idea to them and if they did proceed without me, they would in essence "steal my idea.: Explicitly, nothing was discussed, implicitly I dont know. I realized I have a mess on my hands when they moved quickly and it will be sold worldwide, so there"s very big potential. Honestly, I feel like a small fish in a pool of sharks!
I will file the patent application immediately and what happens if I don't receive the patent within the one year? Do I have a right to put a hold on this project until the patent has gone through?
Filing the patent is key, as that will give you leverage to then negotiate with them about royalties, control, and so on. Besides, even without the patent, you might have other rights to compensation from them -- they can't just take your idea, even if the idea ends up not patented at all. So, again, go for the patent ASAP to put yourself in good position, and also talk to a lawyer about how best to proceed with the company. (Your goal isn't to litigate with them, but to get a good deal for everyone.)
ps. If you don't have the money to get a lawyer, you could find an investor to help, even at this early stage, assuming the market here is big enough.
Professor of Law at Top-Tier Law School, specializing in patent & copyright
Thank you very much, I appreciate your advice!
May God Bless you!
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