There are a lot of misconceptions regarding patents. What they are, how one gets granted, what a patent means, how a patent can be overturned. Inventors often don’t understand what rights a patent gives them, and we are pretty sure that not everyone who buys a patent understands how durable a patent can be in a challenge. In our long experience in the action sports business, we have seen patents get waived around as a threat and usually that is enough to make most third parties fold and run. For example, the big Vermont snowboard company, built patent portfolios to bully the competition and force smaller players into licenses, at the beginning of the sport they even bought the patent for the snowboard itself and tried to coerce the entire industry into paying them royalties. (This tactic lasted about two months before a grassroots revolt). The biggest issue is that patents have a reputation as being proof of invention, when actually they are certificates of provisional ownership of a definition. The way it actually works, is that the inventor does the first research, the patent examiner quickly looks through US patents, however the real test comes when outsiders look at the claims and compare them to the whole world of “prior art” that came before, anywhere in the world. The obscure writing style of a patent helps to make them more mysterious. Being able to read a patent is the first step in a balance of power.
This post by Dan Shapiro gives a great guide on how to read a patent. Patents are dense tangles of bad illustrations, run on sentences and word-play that seems intentionally designed to make you throw your hands up in the air. The actual meat of a patent, and Dan explains, can be found in the claim section toward the rear of the document. Here is his advice reduced to a few bullet points. Read his whole post on his website, it really makes the process clear.
Step 1: Skip the title
Step 2: Skip the drawings
Step 3: Skip the abstract
Step 4: Skip the specification
Step 5: Find the independent claims, and read them
Step 6: Back to skipping toss the dependent claims
Any claim that starts with The _____ of claim _____ is essentially a refinement or detail with narrower scope than the parent claim – if you infringe the baby, you’ll infringe the daddy too. Skipadoodle.
And that’s it!
Getting sucked in to a patent dispute is no good for any entrepreneur. … But if all you need is a quick summary, just cut directly to the independent claims. You’ll be done in a minute.
Use his method to quickly get to the heart of any patent. It will cut out all the noise in a patent.