Patent and Invention Help Forum

Patent and Inventing Discussion => Patent Questions and Advice => Topic started by: Bradley on February 16, 2015, 12:52:43 PM

Title: Can patent be for general instruction device or need to be very specific?
Post by: Bradley on February 16, 2015, 12:52:43 PM
Hi Brad.

I've got a question about an educational/instructional device I'm working on. It's basically a durable board made out of a particular material with instructions, techniques and practice exercises on it for a specific sport. Participants of this sport can stand on or look down at my board (invention) to reference instructions to check their techniques, etc.

I want to patent the device (the board made out of a particular material with instructions for this particular sport for users to reference DURING their participation in this activity). I've seen other patents for devices that serve similar purposes for other sports/activities; however, mine is for a different sport and fixes a specific problem, in that there is not other real way to receive or reference feedback, instructions or guidance on practice exercises while actively participating in this activity.

Based on these factors, it seems my idea/device should be patentable. I've done a search and found nothing like it for this activity. My real question is, can I draft my PPA with general terms such as "instructional device for _________ sport," and can I describe it as "a board made from specific material that offers a reference for instruction on use, technique and practice exercises for active participants of ________ sport"? Or do I have to be more specific in saying "it offers instructions in foot placement, hand positions, body positions, head position, movement patterns," etc and describe each in a very specific way?

Of course, I'm trying to get away from being very specific with each particular element of the "instructional" portion, since there will be so many variables and others would later be able simply change one or two instructional elements to get around the patent. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thank you!
Title: Re: Can patent be for general instruction device or need to be very specific?
Post by: Brad on February 16, 2015, 03:18:29 PM

There are two things.

1)  You should not be unfairly limited to any specific examples you give in your application text or figures. The only way you are limited is by what specific terms are used in your claims.  For example, your figures may show A, B, C, D, and E but if your approved claims only list A, B, and C then you would not be limited to something that also has D and E (those features were not in your claims).  Since claims are not required for a PPA, I would list as much specifics as you can in your PPA and then make sure your claims are carefully written when you do your non-provisional so that you are not limited to things that you don't want to be.

2) Inventions like what you are describing are hard to patent.  I often get questions about new board games being patentable and I never have a good answer because there is nothing special or unique about a board that has markings on it so really what you are trying to patent is the method/process/system which makes this more of a method/process patent then a device or apparatus patent.   From my brief research you may be able to get a patent on something like this but I would also make sure you include the methods and processes that a person may use to work with your invention.  These methods/processes should be shown as flow charts in your figures.  The end result being that you should have figures and text that show both a device/apparatus and figures and text that describe the methods and processes of using that device. 
Title: Re: Can patent be for general instruction device or need to be very specific?
Post by: Bradley on February 16, 2015, 05:02:09 PM
Hi Brad. Thank you for the reply.

1) So with regard to specifics: I can be specific in what the invention is, what it's made from, how it's put together and how it works (or the process/method) and I can be specific regarding the preferred embodiment and some of the alternative embodiments in my PPA, and then carefully craft my claims in my regular patent application. The follow up question I have on this point is: the "instructions" that will be printed on the invention will all relate to the same activity or sport, but will vary based on the specific technique being practiced. Can I leave this printed "instructional" component general as "printed instructions on techniques to increase proficiency in ______ activity" or do I have to spell out (and get locked into on a very specific printed instruction? The latter would seem more appropriate of a design patent.

2) This point you brought up was one of my original questions/sticking points I had: whether I could patent a very simple device (a board made from a particular type of material with instructions and diagrams printed on it, targeted to a specific activity). I know the end product seems extremely simple, but for the specific purpose used, it would solve an obvious problem and it has not been done before in that context.

In my research I found a few granted patents for similar products for golf and soccer, in that they are simple mats that have diagrams on them to show participants where to stand, how to stand, where to move their feet or where to place their ball, etc. After seeing those, I felt I had a basis to patent my idea, since the end product is similar, but the specific purpose or related activity is different.

My targeted sport/activity has a specific safety concern and is regulated by strict safety rules and guidelines, which prohibit other traditional teaching devices (one-on-one instruction, books, etc) from being used during the activity. My product would offer a safe and allowable way for active participants to reference instructional material while actively participating in the sport. It will also offer minimal protection to expensive equipment used in the sport, which are currently susceptible to wear and tear or damage.

The invention isn’t used in scuba diving, but for sake of example, let’s say it is. Based on the aspects I described above, in terms of best chances of patentability would it still sound like a method/process or device to you? And as far as titles and descriptions go, am I on the right path with: “Instructional device for scuba divers” or “Method/process for scuba divers to receive instruction while actively diving underwater”? And lastly, is there a preferred moniker to refer to the invention when discussing it in the narrative of the summary and description sections (i.e., “invention” or “device” or “method” or “process”)?

Thanks again!
Title: Re: Can patent be for general instruction device or need to be very specific?
Post by: Brad on February 17, 2015, 07:16:40 AM

1)  I would try to think of the top 2 or 3 most likely techniques and make sure you have specific instructions on how to use the device for those.  Its better to be too detailed now instead of leaving something out.

2)  When you found related patents were they design patents or utility patents?  How old are they?  When I did my research on game patents it seems there were all 10+ years old and very few new game board type patents were getting allowed.  One Examiner was even quoted as saying they no longer would allow game board type patents unless the actual board was new and unique. 

3) I would use your second title “Method/process for scuba divers to receive instruction while actively diving underwater”  but refer to your invention as the "system" since it covers both physical pieces and methods/steps. 

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