Dan Girdwood

Patent attorney offers advice about keeping ‘secret sauce’

August 25, 2011 // 0 Comments

Inventors need more than good idea  by BETH ALTENA Dan Girdwood, Grand Rapids patent attorney, was a speaker before Rockford Rotary Club members, offering good advice on how to plan and promote an invention without giving up the “secret sauce.” Girdwood said he specializes in the field of intellectual property issues, a field of endeavor just as open to the “little people” as big corporations. He is affiliated with the Grand Rapids Inventors Network (GRIN), a nonprofit organization that helps inventors, marketers and creative people further their ideas. At the Rotary Club meeting, he described how GRIN could help would-be inventors move forward with their idea and hopefully make money in the process. “It’s not about a patent. It’s about your business plan,” he said. “The point is to support your business plan.” A patent gives the owner credibility in negotiation and finance, Girdwood said. It also gives owners control over employees and a stepping stone toward an exit strategy. A first step in deciding whether your invention is a good one is to do a good search and see what is out there, and good research to see if your idea is saleable. A good idea is one with broad potential use, not a narrow field of use. Once a patent is filed, vigilance is required to make sure it isn’t being violated. “You have to take it upon yourself to do something about it if your patent is being violated,” Girdwood advised. “A patent is not a panacea. Usually a patent that is violated is a profitable one.” Laws are in place should a patent prove to be violated, and those in violation have to pay triple the damages to the holder plus court fees—a deterrent with some teeth in it. Timing is also of the essence, Girdwood stated. He used the example of the Sequay. Girdwood said the inventor of the single-person device now common among police for crowd control came out about 12 years ago. He said it took that long for it to be realized that police use was the prime market for the device. Provisional applications for patents last only one year and would have been long expired in that case. He said patents themselves are good for 20 […]