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An Interview with a Patent Attorney

  • March 29, 2014
  • Bradley Taylor

shark-tankWith the success and popularity of the show “Shark Tank”, interest in inventing and patenting is at its zenith.  On the show, people bring in their idea or business model and try to secure funding to take it to the next level.

One of my clients is Widerman & Malek Law Firm. They are patent, copyright & trademark attorneys.  I thought it would be a great idea to interview Mark Malek, managing partner for the firm, and share his insights with our readership.

Me: Mark, does someone ever walk into your office with a great and idea and you think to yourself “why didn’t I (or somebody) think of that already?!”?

Mark: All the time. It never ceases to amaze me the things that some folks come up with. If you were to take a step back and look at some of it, the inventions seem very simplistic, and yet, I find myself asking – how have we not had this around yet?

Me: Do you watch the show “Shark Tank”? What are your favorite/least favorite aspects of that show?

Mark: I have watched Shark Tank in the past. By far, my favorite aspect about that show is watching people who “get it”. In other words, far too often, we run up against inventors that seem to think that the money will just come to them if they just get a patent. Instead, what needs to happen is you need to get out there and sell the product – make a pitch. This is exactly what happens on Shark Tank. These inventors are making the effort to go and put their invention into the world. That’s the best part. The only thing about Shark Tank that sometimes gets me is that I am not sure some of these people have sought patent protection on their inventions. Some of their inventions are absolutely brilliant, and without patent protection, there is not much that they can do to stop someone from copying their invention. I do think sometimes that some of these folks would do well to consult an attorney before going on the show.

Me: What is the best thing for a new inventor to do if they have a great idea but do not have much money?

Mark:First, they need to do a little bit of searching on their own. There is a chance that they can eliminate the need for the lawyer for the search. There are a lot of good resources out there available for free. Some of the websites that I use are www.google.com/patents, and www.sumobrain.com. I have written a few articles that will help folks out in their prior art searching efforts. This article gives you some good places to search for prior art before really investing any money into your invention: http://www.legalteamusa.net/tacticalip/2012/10/28/where-to-search-for-prior-art-patent/.

Me: Has your firm been involved with the patenting or copyright protection of anything we would recognize nationally?

home-depotMark: Absolutely – if you go into any Home Depot and go to the light bulb section, you will notice an entire section of LEDs there. Many of those are manufactured by Lighting Science, which is based out of Satellite Beach, FL. We have been honored to be their patent attorneys, and many of the lamps that you will see on the shelves of Home Depot are protected by patents written by ZW&M. Many years ago, I wrote the patents on the plastic rope lights that are used to decorate various areas. I was also involved in writing the patents that cover the televisions on airplanes, like the ones you see on Jet Blue.

Me: Do you own any patents/inventions?

Mark: I do not own any patents. It is difficult for me to invent. I have been doing patent law for more than 14 years now, and I have been exposed to so many different types of technologies, that anything I think of is usually related to something that one of my clients is already working on. Therefore, there would be too much of a conflict for me to invent anything. With that in mind, however, two of my partners are inventors and patent holders. Scott Widerman has a patent on a fishing rod holder, and was very successful with it for some period of time. In fact, his invention was sold in Wal Mart stores for years.

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