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Inventors – How to Deal with Knockoffs
Stopping knockoff artists
The Toronto entrepreneur Wayne Fromm credited with creating the selfie stick made in on Ophray Winfrey’s The O list and was a topic of conversation on many talk TV shows including the Tonight Show. But despite his 2005 patent, then titled the Quik Pod, knockoff artists cashed in on the popularity of selfie stick, cranking out cheap imitations.
Fromm had a few successful lawsuits that were settled against knockoff manufacturers but he just didn’t have the financial resources to take on every manufacturer. So what does that mean as far as is a patent worthwhile. Especially in a case like the selfie stick where the product can be easily of manufactured with low start-up costs.
What inventors have going for them, and why I think patents are valuable on even low cost products, is that the big retailers will typically honor patented products and not sell knockoffs if notify them about your patented product. You can’t really sue Chinese manufacturers, or street vendors or distributors that sell at small shows but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
This article on Patent Claims Against Retailers, by Morgan Lewis, a law firm, https://www.morganlewis.com/pubs/ip_patentclaimsagainstretailers_wp_sept2010.pdf explains the issue pretty well.
When an inventor first notifies a retailer that they are selling a product that is infringing on their patent the point to remember is that” U.S. laws impose liability for infringing a patent by making, using or selling (or even offering to sell) the patented invention” so the retailer is responsible for patent infringement supplied by a third party.
Most inventors will find that retailers don’t want to be sued and will respect your patent. Retailers taking products off the shelf might also send the manufacturer to you with the offer of a settlement.
Depending on your product, you might also try to add a Trademark to your product to try and escalate the knockoff manufacturer and its distribution network, into the category of selling counterfeit goods. A great trademark name, like the selfie-stick, might allow you to add to your letters that the manufacturer or retailer is not just infringing on your patent, but also selling counterfeit goods.
Trademarks are much cheaper than patents, the USPTO lists fees ranging from $225 to $400.00., You can talk to your patent attorney about obtaining a trademark, or you can check out the US Patent and Trademark Sites information on Filing a Trademark online at https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/filing-online/filing-your-application-online. You can find multiple companies offering trademark assistance by doing a search for Filing a Trademark Application.
Wayne Fromm, who has created a new product the Selfie Stick-It, which can be attached to any surface, has chosen this time to offer three options for his product, with low, medium and high pricing in an effort to discourage knockoffs.
So are patents worthwhile. I certainly think so. Don’t be discouraged about the high cost of suing a manufacturer. Think instead of sending out letters to retailers carrying the product, possibly attaching an article similar to the one by Morgan Lewis and you might squeeze the knockoff manufacturer into making a deal with you.
Don Debelak is a registered patent agent. Check out his site, http://patentsbydondebelak.com/.
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