Amazon Patent Breakdown
Are you worried about patent issues for your new Amazon product? Or maybe you want to file your very own patent? We have what Amazon sellers need to know all coming up in this episode of the Amazon Seller Podcast.
Okay, so welcome back to the Amazon Seller podcast. Today we have a special guest with us. We have Rich Goldstein from Goldstein Patent Law. Rich is also the author of the ABA Consumer Guy to Obtaining a Patent. So, we want to welcome you to the podcast.
Thanks, Liran. Great to be here.
We got to meet in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago at SellerCon. But I’ve also kind of seen your name around, before that. You were one of the speakers at SellerCon. We got to connect there, and then see each other again recently in New Jersey, which was really nice and have lunch and get to know each other. And, I told you one of my personal stories with my own patent situation. And you gave me some advice around it. So, I guess tell us a little bit about what you do and, why it’s kind of relevant, to the eCommerce space.
Great. Thank you and thanks again for having me here. So for the past 25 years, I’ve been working with entrepreneurs to help them to protect their inventions. To protect their ideas and products, and also to help keep them out of trouble in the area of technology that well, the people have a significant amount of patents.
So that’s what I’ve been doing all along. I’ve been, I haven’t been doing the corporate work. I’ve been working more with entrepreneurs and small companies. So I’ve been working with eCommerce entrepreneurs and Amazon sellers to help them with the particular challenges that they’ve been faced with as they seek to grow their businesses. And as they seek to grow their online businesses.
Rich gives strategies about the importance of differentiating:
So are there any ways that sellers can differentiate with patents without necessarily, you know, being the next, you know, Albert Einstein?
Yeah, absolutely, that’s the key. It is all about differentiation. It’s all about the thing that makes your product more attractive to customers. And effectively is a game-changer in that your competitors then want to do what you’ve just figured out. But they’re not able to do because you have a protected and, most inventions are incremental like that.
It’s not something that is, just completely, a completely new type of product. It’s usually an improvement on something that exists and you find a way to make it work better. You find a way to solve one of the problems with the existing product. And so you don’t need to really think of yourself as an inventor to do something which makes a difference for your product and is worth protecting.
And in fact, I’d say most of my clients don’t think of themselves as inventors. They just suddenly have an idea for how to improve the product that they’ve been selling or had been working on and they realize that they need to do something about protecting it.
Rich gives a breakdown of the types of patents:
So there are two types of, of patents. There’s a utility patent and a design patent. A utility patent, this is more of what you traditionally think of when you think of a patent. It’s like you have an invention, you’ve improved on a product. You, you find a way to make a shovel that, that breaks the ground better or that, is bigger. It’s so that you could hang it on your garage wall. There’s something structurally different about it that allows it to solve a problem that people have been facing with existing shovels. Let’s say.
That’s what a utility patent is for. It’s for the structural differences. And those differences are protected on a fairly conceptual level where it’s the fact that it has some unique feature to it.
And so the way that design patents are created is with a lot of words, a lot of description. And so it’s more involved to create, it’s more expensive to put together a utility patent. Yes. So it’s more expensive to put together a utility patent application for that reason because it is the, it’s a lot of description that has to be crafted to describe how the invention operates. And this is the critical part that the way that utility patents are infringed is through words. It’s through the description is through having something which meets that description and the ways in which you’ve defined what the invention is.
Amazon has flipped the patent structure on its head. Rich explains how:
But so now, now in the Amazon world, things have been turned a bit upside down. Because with Amazon you have this IP complaint procedure where if you have a patent you can complain to Amazon just by filling out a form. And you know, and notifying Amazon that you have a certain patent and they will very often shut down the listing based upon your IP complaint.
So if you make a complaint that’s based on a utility patent, it could get confusing about whether this product fits. The definition is kind of long and wordy and is contained in that utility patents. So, you know, we know how things operate at Amazon. Where there isn’t a high level of kind of consideration that goes into any of our communications with them. Where, I mean a lot of things are being done by people that are in, you know, outsourced phone banks. And in places where they’re just reviewing piles of paperwork and the person who’s reviewing your IP complaint may have been looking at an IP listing hijacking a moment ago.
So they don’t know a whole lot about patents. They don’t know about how to interpret the language in your utility patent application. So they very well might not shut down a listing even if they are infringing your patent.
But now, on the other hand, is the design patent. The review again is that they’ll give it as rather simplistic. They’ll still look at the drawings and your design patent. They’ll look at the product that you say is infringing your patent and they’ll say, oh, it looks pretty similar and they’ll shut the listing down. So that’s how things have been flipped upside down by Amazon is that suddenly design patents have become more valuable than utility patents.
Wondering if Google Patents is a viable search option?
Now going to the online searching part of your question. So there’s a website called Google Patents and that’s at patents.google.com. And it’s a great place to poke around and look at patents. I wouldn’t consider your search on Google patents though to be exhaustive by any means. It’s not the best way to figure out either if a patent exists for something or whether, the product that you want to patent, whether there’s probably patents that described, that same type of invention. So it’s not the best place to exhaustively know that something does not exist.
But sometimes when you’re poking around on it, you, you’ll find things really close very easily. And when you do, then at least you know, okay, this exists. But the really good use for Google patents is when you see a product with a patent number on it, you want to look it up.
How long do patents last and when does a patent expire?
A utility patent will expire 20 years after it is applied. A design patent will expire 15 years after they were issued and became patents. And also, utility patents can expire early if certain fees weren’t paid. So that’s another thing you can do as you look up the patent on the United States Patent Office website. You could look to see if the fees have been expired, the fees have been paid. And if the fees were not paid then again, it’s fair game to manufacture it.