Launching a Successful Business

Let's Talk About "Happy Accidents" And How To Patent Them: A Legal Perspective

In whatever manufacturing business you are in, there may come a day when your plant accidentally produces something unusual. When you realize that the accidental product is new, different, useful, and marketable, you may want to turn your "happy accident" into cash. Before you get that far, you should explore patenting your new accidental product and consulting with a patent lawyer about your product. Here is what the lawyer might have to say about this accidental product.

Knowing the Probability of Reproduction in Another Plant

Products referred to as "happy accidents" are typically one-off items that are difficult to reproduce because they do not occur naturally on the production line. The oddball item you have in your hands may be just a curiosity, a fun thing to look at or interact with. However, in terms of production, can other manufacturing plants reproduce the same set of circumstances to produce the same item "by accident"? If there is a high probability that your item (for which you are seeking a patent) can easily be reproduced by other manufacturers, then the patent lawyer has to find out if the other manufacturers have sought a patent for the same or similar item.

Checking Patents for Same/Similar Items

If you are confident that your item should be patented so that you can begin production right away, then the patent lawyer can check with the patent office for any and all items with specifications matching your item. Items of a similar nature might have vastly wild and unusual names, which will make the search-by-name feature impossible. Ergo, the patent lawyer would have to search by material type, size of item, measurements, spec sheets, etc. If nothing similar is found, then your patent lawyer can apply for a patent for you. If similar items are found, you will have to decide if you really want to pursue this, since the costs associated with patents and pushing your patent through before anyone else's are generally quite high. Should you encounter legal disputes over your patent and accidental product, you would have to pay your lawyer to defend your case and your right to produce your item too.

Reproducing Your Happy Accident Once You Have Secured the Patent

If and when you are finally able to secure a patent on your "happy accident" item, then you have to figure out how to reproduce it and continue to reproduce it until people lose interest in buying it. This step may be more challenging than securing the patent, since your one-off item will have to be taken apart, measured, scrutinized, and then have a mechanical engineer draw up plans to recreate it over and over again. In the midst of all of this, it could take several years to reproduce, in which case your patent may expire and you would need to re-up the patent before another manufacturer gets the jump on you. That is a lot of legal hoops to jump through for one happy accident that may turn unhappy before you are through, so think it all through carefully.