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"Luggage loot", provisional patent applications, and what they mean...
Thanks for your question!
First, I am not an intellectual property lawyer, so please do not consider the following to be legal advice. However, here's my understanding.
As I think Michael mentioned, "patent pending" just usually means they've put in a provisional patent application. You can do this in the USA for $110. (The current fees are listed here. The relevant fee is the "Provisional application filing fee".)
What this gets them is the right to say "Patent Pending" for 12 months. It is not a patent. However, if they do file a full patent application within 12 months and receive it, their patent application will be back-dated to the date of their provisional patent application.
So, that company still has some hurdles to jump before they get a patent. They have to put in a full patent application - which is much more expensive than putting in a provisional patent application. (A full patent application can often cost thousands of dollars.) Then, they have to get the patent approved. According to this web page, in 2006, 59% of patent applications in the USA failed. Only 41% of patent applications were approved.
Since you're in Canada, it would also mean they'd have to file a Canadian patent application for it to have any effect on you - which would mean even more expenses for them. US patents only cover the USA, and not any other countries. You have to file a patent application in every country that you want covered.
So, summing up...
- They only have a provisional patent, and may not have yet made a full patent application.
- If and when they make a full patent application, it will mean nothing unless it gets approved.
- Since you're in Canada, they'd have to get a patent in Canada for it to affect you.
I hope that helps!
However, please keep in mind that I am not an intellectual property lawyer, so please don't take this as legal advice.
By the way, I'm sure there are others companies too doing this business if you search around. If it was me, I wouldn't let this stop me, but you have to make your own decision.
(For Hidden Business Ideas Letter subscribers, you can find the relevant article about "Luggage Loot" in issue #20.)
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