Frequently Asked Questions
What do you do, exactly?
After a career as an inventor myself, and with the support of some close friends and colleagues, in 2015 I founded VentorBridge, LLC, a South Carolina corporation, to help individuals and small businesses over the “rough spots” most encounter while trying to develop and patent their own inventions. These are:
- Conception of the invention. Having and then refining the basic idea for the invention, not just “what it does” but at least some of the “how.”
- Reduction to practice. Actually “doing” the invention by building a working model, doing lab tests, etc. to show it works and find a favored way of doing it: the “preferred embodiment.”
- Writing the Specification. This is the description of the invention, in words and drawings, which hopefully will appear in the issued patent.
- Defending the Claims. Working hand-in-hand with your patent attorney to help overcome any Patent Office objections to issuing your patent.
You may choose to let VentorBridge help with any one, any combination, or all four of these. The work usually goes best, however, when we help you carry through all four steps in order.
Isn’t that like those companies that advertise on TV?
No. Those people will take your money, promise to make and sell your invention for you and make you rich, but except for a fancy printed report full of promises, you may or may not get anything at all back from them. They, not you, will probably own your patent when or if it issues. The Patent Office regards them as scammers.
Instead, VentorBridge will work with you and your attorney to prepare and file the application for a patent. Most “new” inventors have little or no experience with this process, so are easily scammed. VentorBridge helps guide you through, and at the end, assuming your patent issues, it will be your own.
Why do you work “with” a patent attorney? Can’t you do it all?
No. Patent attorneys are highly specialized; they spent a lot of time in law school to become what they are. We’re multidisciplinary engineers and generalists. Each has a part to play, and there’s not often a lot of overlap. So, we urge you to find your own patent attorney and discuss your invention before you even contact us about it. In fact, this matters so much that we’ll give you a price break if you do.
What do you mean, “assuming the patent issues”?
In the patenting world, there are no guarantees. Your invention may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if an examiner finds a patent from back in 1947, say, that seems too similar, your patent may be denied. This is why “defending the claims” is needed: to offer reasoned arguments why the two are different and your patent should, in fact, be issued despite that earlier one. In VentorBridge’s experience, this usually works…but not always. The examiner always has the final say.
Why do you charge so much?
We get this mostly from folks new to the process. A lot of time and effort goes into every stage of the process: many hours of research, for instance, just finding the most likely of those earlier patents to interfere with getting yours, and coming up with a version of the invention that’s as clear of them as possible. Reduction to practice may take many tries, and we may have to hire outside help or buy new equipment for parts of it. Writing the specification is a very exacting process, and the figures have to be “just so.” It’s not a job for the lazy or the timid.
How can you do it, charging so little?
Yes, we get that, too: mostly from those who’ve fought this battle too, and retreated bloody (but hopefully unbowed). I’m a retired inventor myself, so at present I’m not taking any pay from the company. In essence, you’re getting my time and my expertise for free. What you pay all goes toward the work, toward improving the company’s capabilities, or to others (the “we”) on whom I sometimes call for help.
Why do you charge a flat rate for each stage?
I believe in having everything agreed up front, in a signed contract, so there are no surprises. What I ask you to pay is my best educated guess at what it will actually cost, based on similar work I’ve done before. There’ll be no balloon payments or ever-escalating “pay-me’s” like you’d get from those scam invention companies that advertise on TV. What’s in your contract with VentorBridge, stands.
How can you make any money, then?
VentorBridge wants you, and your invention, to be successful. So, as my Grandpa used to say, we keep “some skin in the game.” Our success will depend on yours.
- A patent’s main value lies in its claims. These are the legally enforceable part of the patent, and appear at the end, sequentially numbered. In general, more claims make a stronger patent. So, when the patent issues VentorBridge will bill you a flat fee for its issuance (since that’s a triumph in itself!) plus a small additional charge per claim. See for example the Stage 4 terms in the sample contract.
- But the patent is really just the beginning. We’ll also ask for a small percentage (usually one-half per cent) of your future revenues from using, or letting others use, the part of the invention the patent protects. That way, our success really will depend on yours – and you can be sure we’ll do our utmost to help you get as strong and valuable a patent as we can.
What if I’d rather not pay royalties year by year?
For a start-up business short on funds, paying royalties year by year on actual revenues is usually the best approach. Established businesses, however, may prefer an approach in which all contract amounts are agreed at the start, and paid either during the contract period or after its conclusion, leaving the company free of any obligation to VentorBridge thereafter.
In such cases, VentorBridge has found the following approach works well:
We will ask you to estimate, to your best ability and as closely as possible, your projected revenue from using the invention in the first ten calendar years (only) after the contract is signed, assuming for simplicity that the patent issues at the start of the fourth year. Based on our own research we will do the same, and unless the figures differ wildly, we will accept your estimate. If there is a large difference, we may need to negotiate the final amount.
VentorBridge will then ask for a total royalty of one-half of one per cent (0.5%) of that estimated ten years of revenue. One-half of this royalty will be due in a lump sum upon successful reduction of the invention to practice (Stage 3 in a typical contract), and the remainder when the patent issues.
How long will it take?
That will depend on the complexity of your project, and especially on how many tries it takes to reduce it to practice. I’ll include time estimates for each stage in the contract: “about three to six months” or the like. Please understand, though, that unforeseen circumstances, especially in reduction to practice, can impact those estimates. Again, in the patenting business there are no guarantees.
What if we get part way through, and I change my mind?
A VentorBridge contract is normally set up in stages; see for instance this one. At the end of each stage you have the option of either continuing as agreed, or ending the work. Or, if you decide the work needs to take a different direction from what we planned at first, we can re-negotiate parts of the contract to make it better fit your needs.
How do I know you won’t just steal my idea?
Hmmm: sounds like you, or a friend, might have gotten burned by one of those scam invention companieson TV.
The first thing we’ll do, is ask you for a very general description of your invention. Based on that, we’ll decide whether this falls in an area where we can work. Our knowledge is broad, but like everyone’s, has limits! Also, there are some things we just don’t do. Or it may be too close to something we’re already doing for another client, causing potential conflicts of interest.
If your project looks like something we can tackle, we’ll execute a Nondisclosure Agreement. This is a legal document that binds VentorBridge not to use any confidential information you provide, except to help with your project. If I ask a friend with some other specialty to help, don’t worry – they’ll be bound by it too.
You mostly refer to yourself in the first person. So, who’s “we”?
VentorBridge is set up as a single-member limited liability company (LLC). That means I, Jim Kronberg (the “Ventor”), will be the main person conducting every VentorBridge project, will sign all official documents, and will make all executive decisions.
Since I have broad experience in some areas (see my patent list for examples), I can often complete VentorBridge’s part of a project on my own. Where that’s not the case, however, I have friends and colleagues with a much wider knowledge base, upon whom I can call for help.
Among us we’re good at electrical, mechanical and materials engineering, chemistry, botany, geology, and the food and health sciences; familiar with most manufacturing processes; and know our way around computers. Also, we’re fast learners. Give us a challenge in a new field, though, and it may take us longer to get up to speed. If it’s something we’re not reasonably sure we can pick up in time to help, we’ll tell you that up front.
If I find I need help from these friends, I’ll share only as much of your proprietary information as necessary, and of course your Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) will apply to them as well. Also, there will be no additional cost to you. Any payments to them will come independently from VentorBridge funds.
You may, however, see one or more of their names, along with my own, listed as inventors on the patent application when I send it. I do that as a courtesy to those who contribute significantly (more than 10%) to conceiving the invention, reducing it to practice, or preparing the application. All inventors so listed (myself included) agree in advance to assign all rights in the invention to you, the client, and execute any needed paperwork to make sure your invention remains your own.
Why do you require your name(s) on the patent, then? Doesn’t that make it your patent, not mine?
No. I keep my patent list on the web site, and each new patent I’ve worked on becomes another entry when it issues. It’s all part of establishing credibility with new or potential clients. As part of the patent application process, though, I’ll sign a form assigning to you whatever share of the patent was mine.
I don’t need to be the sole inventor, though, or even the “chief,” the first one listed.
If you look up patents using the PTO search engine, you’ll find each is listed by the chief inventor followed by “et al.” if there’s more than one. Down lower in the patent header you’ll then see all the inventors’ names. This should include everyone who’s worked “significantly” on the invention. You decide what’s “significant,” but as a very general rule at the Government lab, we considered it to be “10% or more” of the total work.
So, by all means put your name first, if you like. Just be sure mine is on there somewhere.
It’s possible that one of my friends with some other specialty may also have contributed “significantly” and should also be listed. If so, I’ll show that name on the application too and the same rules and conditions will apply.
Can I come tour your facilities?
No. I’m usually working on projects for several clients at a time, and there’s a chance a visitor might see something one of them would consider confidential. To safeguard confidential matter, as promised to each client in the Nondisclosure Agreement, as a matter of policy I don’t allow site visits.
Does that mean we can’t meet face to face?
Not at all! In fact I prefer to start any contract with a face-to-face, sit-down meeting with the client, then have at least one more when I’ve reduced the invention to practice and can deliver the working model, if any. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, more may be needed.
We can meet in your own facility or, if you prefer, in some public place agreeable to both. I have one long-time client, for instance, whom I usually meet in a Waffle House part way between us.
If it’s less than a day’s drive to our meeting place and back again, I’ll consider two visits to be included in the normal terms of the contract. I’m based south of Aiken, South Carolina – close to the Savannah River National Lab, where I used to work and still have friends – so that includes roughly the area shown on the map below: 150 miles each way “as the crow flies,” plus a little more near each major city.
If you need me to come further, or if the trip will require an overnight stay, we’ll have to include travel arrangements in the contract.
Once the patent has issued, can you make and sell my invention for me?
No. VentorBridge is not a manufacturer. In many cases we can provide you with one working prototype of the invention. But, it’ll be up to you to make the arrangements to have it manufactured and sold. For a private individual, we strongly urge that you partner with an established business in the area of your invention which can handle manufacture and sales. Often we can make recommendations, but you will in no way be bound by them. Your final choice of manufacturer and sales organization will be entirely your own.