Patent attorney Jerry Haynes of Medford says he's often surprised at which inventors' ideas earn patents and which turn out already to be covered by someone else's creation.
"Long ago I quit making predictions," says Haynes. "It's hard to predict without having some kind of research done."
Haynes, who was born in Medford, returned to the Rogue Valley in 2005 to bring his family here after working in Sacramento. He kept ties with former employers and figured he'd get some work.
"It exceeded my expectations as far as being able to make a business out of it," says Haynes. "There's not any corporate R and D (research and development) facilities around here. I'm amazed at the amount of invention in the Rogue Valley."
Haynes is a registered patent attorney authorized to practice the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and chemical engineering.
His law degree is from George Washington University and he has worked for Intel Corp., Chevron Corp. and large other companies.
One local invention he helped patent is advertised on TV. It's called Bottle Tops, a trademarked device that turns an aluminum soda or beer can into a bottle with screw-off lid. (See story, Page 18.) David Gran of Central Point and Carl Stufflet, now of Medford, came up with the device and were granted a patent in 2008.
Among other patents Haynes has secured for local inventors are a CD case with guitar pick display capacity, the McCoy Thumb, a device for excavation equipment that can hold heavy objects in a scoop bucket (See story, Page 40), a board game and a postcard that can become a picture display. He has about 100 patents pending for local inventors in both the U.S. and foreign counties.
After an initial consultation with an inventor, Haynes has a research firm check existing patents to find about 10 that most closely resemble an inventor's work. He then advises clients whether they should proceed.
"Sometimes it is disappointing," says Haynes. "People get results back and are surprised at what's out there. I have to have a good-faith basis to believe that (an invention) is patentable."
That's when the bulk of Haynes' work begins, as he writes up detailed explanations of how an invention works and what the inventor wants covered by the patent. Writing those explanations for most claims takes between 30 and 40 hours, depending on the complexity of the invention.
"A lot of people think you can get a form," says Haynes. "It doesn't work that way. A patent application is a document truly written from scratch. It's a mixture of technical and legal writing. The patent office is very specific about how they want an application written."
A two- to three-year wait typically follows the filing, as the patent office reviews the claim before it issues an office action. During that time a back and forth process may take place between the office, the inventor and Haynes.
"It's not uncommon to be rejected the first time out," Haynes says. "You don't have to accept their interpretation. You can argue with them or appeal. They make mistakes or misinterpret, or they might not understand what your invention does."
Corporations usually figure a patent will cost about $10,000, says Haynes, who indicated his charges fall below that level.
"It's exciting and very rewarding to see somebody turn an idea into a patent and then a product," Haynes says.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.