EP 21 - Rich Goldstein - Product Patents: How they work, the Types and More

Awesomers Authority - We'll talk to subject matter experts that talk about various topics that would be of interest to other Awesomers who are listening including, but not limited to, starting a business, running a business, best marketing ideas, sourcing in China, organizational development, tools to help your your business more profitably and much more.
Rich Goldstein is a patent attorney, entrepreneur, and marketer.  
He works with ecommerce sellers to help them protect their innovative products and also avoid problems when sourcing products they intend to sell.  
He is the author of the American Bar Association’s Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.


One of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs is deciding on the patents, trademarks and other protection mechanisms for their business.

On this episode, Steve introduces Richard Goldstein, a patent attorney, entrepreneur and marketer. He is also the author of the American Bar Association's Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent. Here are more awesome takeaways on today’s episode:

  • How Rich works with E-commerce sellers to help them protect their innovative products and avoid problems when sourcing.

  • The abundance mindset and why he believes in it.

  • Why relationship is the foundation of accomplishment.

  • How product patent works, the steps in applying for a patent, the different types of patent and more.

So subscribe to the Awesomers podcast and learn how you too can have patent protection for your business.

Welcome to the Awesomers.com podcast. If you love to learn and if you're motivated to expand your mind and heck if you desire to break through those traditional paradigms and find your own version of success, you are in the right place. Awesomers around the world are on a journey to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. We believe in paying it forward and we fundamentally try to live up to the great Zig Ziglar quote where he said, "You can have everything in your life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." It doesn't matter where you came from. It only matters where you're going. My name is Steve Simonson and I hope that you will join me on this Awesomer journey.


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1:30 (Steve introduces today’s guest, Rich Goldstein.)

Steve: This is Awesomers.com podcast episode number 21 and as always to find show notes and details you can go to Awesomers.com/21 , that's Awesomers.com/21 . So today my guest is the great Rich Goldstein. Rich is a patent attorney, entrepreneur and a marketer. He would say marketer but I threw in the marketer because it's fun. He works with E-commerce sellers to help them better protect their innovative products as well as helping them avoid problems when sourcing products that they intend to sell. He is the author of the American Bar Association's Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent and that's a book I highly recommend for any entrepreneur to give you the basic overview of what the process of getting a patent is all about. We're really lucky to have somebody as smart and as capable as Rich joining us. To talk about the process of finding out about patents, learning if the product we want to sell’s already got a patent on it or even if it has a patent can we still sell, and if so on what conditions. There's so many things related to patents so this is going to be an exciting episode for you to learn lots about patents. Awesomers this is Steve Simonson and we're back on the Awesomers.com podcast today joined by special guest Rich Goldstein. Rich, how are you buddy?

Rich: I'm doing well Steve. How are you?

Steve:  Doing great and thrilled to have you on today. And Awesomers, you're in for a treat today because so often we talk about product development and the intellectual property patent and all the headaches that go along with that. And today we're hoping that Rich is gonna give us some insights and clues into that whole world, which is very murky and often scary for people who have never dealt with it. Rich that's kind of your bailiwick right? This is what your specialty isn't it?

Rich:  It is. My specialty is patents and trademarks, but also from what you just said too, my specialty is helping people to not have it be so murky. So I really specialize in working with people to gain a better understanding of the IP issues that face them. So that it's not so far, not so strange, not so scary.

Steve: Yes. So I definitely think this is one of the best parts of it. Interfacing with somebody like Rich who knows what he's doing, is specialized in this particular category. Because they can take the pain away right? And isn't that what we all want? We know that when we're dealing with things that are complex or things, maybe we just simply don't understand that's a lot of pain but we can make the pain go away by bringing in it an expert like rich.

Rich:  Yes. And we can make the pain away. You could make the pain go away by handing something over to an expert. Let's say like me, he call myself an expert but I guess I am, you are. And so it's great when we can delegate something to someone who can just handle it for us right? But I also like to make the pain go away just by having people understand what they're doing and not feeling the pain of confusion and not knowing what to expect next. So I liked to make the pain go away in that way as well.

Steve: That's such a good point. They say ignorance is bliss but I'll tell you, when I don't know something particularly as it involves the legal stuff it does not feel blissful

Rich: Yes, I never feel blissful.

Steve: And I want it to go away quickly and often I will go to my happy place and curl up in a little ball. So Rich let's take a step back and summarize who you are and what you do from the big picture just so the audience can understand because I know you, I'm kind of glancing over that. Tell us who you're and what you do please.

5:00 (Rich talks about his origin story.)

Rich: Well, who I am I guess and what I do in this realm is, I'm a patent attorney but I'm also a marketer and an entrepreneur and a business coach. So I like to think that I bring that well-roundedness to it when I'm working with other marketers and other entrepreneurs especially e-commerce entrepreneurs. I am a patent attorney but I'm also one of you in that sense. I like to look at things from a practical perspective and not just from the perspective of patent attorney and is this patentable, is this not patentable etc… I have been passionate about educating people about the patent process for the last twenty or so years. I used to do a lot of seminars and I created a series of videos about seven or eight years ago that tens of thousands of people have watched to understand the patent process. And the American Bar Association asked me to write a book to explain to entrepreneurs how patents work so I wrote the ABA consumer guide to obtaining a patent which does just that. And top quote on the back cover there if you look according to Frank Kern it says... and I think many people here probably know Frank Kern is... and says finally a book about patents in plain English and I'm really glad for that because that's what I set out to do when I wrote the book.

Steve: That is a great accomplishment and we're definitely going to talk a little bit about how that book came about, how people can apply it and really try to help people unlock this Rubik's Cube of patents. And how it fits in with a typical ecommerce entrepreneur. I think that's something that people still struggle with. In just a moment, we need to take a quick break but when we come back we're gonna dive into just a quick bit of Rich's origin story. Where he came from and learn a little bit about that and we'll do that right after this.


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Steve: Okay we're back again Awesomers were visiting today with Rich Goldstein and he's talking to us a little bit about his expertise in patent law and so forth. We're gonna dive into some of those details because he's certainly an authority in that subject matter, but I always like to start from the beginning. Rich where were you born? Where did you come from?

8:24 (Rich talks about his birth place and where did he come from.)

Rich: Oh I was born in Staten Island, New York.

Steve: Boy the accent would never give that away.

Rich: Through speech therapy I've managed to eliminate 95% of my accent.

Steve: 95% because the west seas can pick it up strong. I love it. By the way when I greeted Rich Awesomers out there this morning. When I greet him on our call I said how you doing? Because I like to fit in and so there you go. How about your parents Rich? What's their background?

8:55 (Rich talks about his parents.)

Rich: So my parents were both born in Brooklyn New York and my father is an engineer. He was a mechanical engineer worked for the city of New York for his entire career, designing the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems for the various city buildings, the court buildings etc… And funny thing, since you asked about my parents and my background like that. My dad would explain anything to... probably painful detail. Any question I ask there's a three-year-old child asking about something and he'd explain to me what relative humidity is and so I think that's a very important part of my upbringing. As a matter of fact  one of the favorite stories about me when I was about two years old. They said to me; “Richard you're diapers wet” and my answer to them was; “it must be condensation”. It just has to make you wonder how the type of conversations I was having with my dad that it would occurred to me like moisture condensation. But that came from having an engineer dad and I guess him just explaining everything in my environment around to me to such detail.

Steve: Well I love that and for those Awesomers keeping score at home if you want to measure relative humidity and a do-it-yourself environment go find yourself a sling psychrometer. You ever heard that on a podcast yet today. So let's fast forward, so it sounds like you went to school because a lot of attorneys have done that. Tell us more about it.

Rich:  I did. I went to a pre-engineering high school and I studied Electrical Engineering in college and around the same time that I started college, I also started a business. I was selling salon supplies to beauty and manicuring salons in the area where my university was Stony Brook University. I really gained an interest in business and at the same time I found out that the reality of becoming an engineer would be that I'd be working on the same project day in and day out for maybe five years at a time. Where they give you one little piece of some big system and they say here design what goes between A and B and then that's what you do for five years. And that didn't seem interesting to me enough and with my interest in business I thought I would change my major and not continue studying engineering. But then I heard about patent law which is where you need to be an engineer and also a lawyer. And so I finished with Electrical Engineering and I had some fun doing that believe it or not. Then I went to law school and once I became a patent lawyer, I then got to work on different things every day so I get to apply that engineering knowledge, because you need to have it in order to understand technology and understand how things are different from other things and explain those differences. But I get to work on something different every day. So it was really a fulfillment of that experience when I was in college of knowing that I wanted to be working on different projects and not to be kind of stuck in a rot and so it was really great the way that worked out.

Steve: That's a fascinating solution to the problem. So I didn't realize the full engineering background in degree even though we've probably been running around and in various masterminds and circles for the last couple years. I didn't remember that part of the story if you've told me. But what a perfect applicability to patent law. I mean, it solves the exact problem of not having to deal with the same thing every day for five years because you get new stuff every day. Right? And yet you get to apply that brilliant engineering in a real practical setting. Wow, good on you mate. That's so good. It worked out well.

Rich: When I graduated law school I started my own firm so I got to fulfill on that entrepreneurial side of me as well and just a cool little thing that happened alongside of that is. As I was graduating law school and I decided I was going to start my own firm, I realized that I was going to need clients. Most of the time when people start their own firms it's because they were first working at a big firm and they were working for big clients and so when they decided to leave, they were able to take some of that work with them. But in my case, I was starting from scratch. So what I did is, I founded a magazine for inventors. So I launched a magazine that had all types of articles about inventing and patenting and prototyping, and I sought to have that distributed in different ways that invention shows and at the Patent libraries around the country. And basically, so what I did is I got a whole bunch of content out there and I was prominently branded within the magazine. So I generated interest from myself as a patent attorney. So basically I was doing content marketing in the mid 90s before there was even such a thing.

Steve: That is a fascinating way to solve the problem right. So did you ever read the book Guerrilla Marketing back in that timeframe?

Rich: I didn't.

Steve: Yes Guerrilla Marketing would have shared that really advanced concept if something doesn't exist right? If you have to create your market out of thin air you just go solve for X and you did that by literally creating a magazine and putting it in front of your target audience and obviously you being the authority in that particular setting. You were the magazine publisher and probably the lead advertiser. I'm suspecting that got you a lot of credibility and potentially a really clever way to get started again. Your problem solving techniques are quite ingenious. I like that.

Rich: Thank you. And there's more to the story too, maybe we'll talk about it on another podcast. As if there's a way in which I leverage that and the magazine to create other opportunities as well.

Steve: So tell. Yes, let's let's dive into that because we lie love the intersection of entrepreneurial with the legal piece because that's truly unique. And for the Awesomers listening at home, as we stand by for more of Rich’s story. We should remember that it's not common for attorneys to have the entrepreneurial business perspective. It exists, it happens and Rich is a perfect example of it. I have fleets of lawyers who specialize in everything from customs to China to obviously patent advanced patent litigation which we use a different resource or startup patents and any kind of a patent research would be a good resource for to take a look at a project and so on and so forth so there's lots and lots of attorneys. And it's rare to have the really good combination of practical business and entrepreneurial insight plus the legal piece. So I love that. So tell me how did you leverage the magazine?

Rich: So first of all, through the magazine I began to get contacted by various other entities that saw what I was doing. So for example I was contacted by The Invention Convention out of Pasadena and they invited us to come out. That I was contacted by the Learning Annex in New York City because they had an invention course but their instructor suddenly wasn't available. They needed someone to fill in and through the combination of a few of those items I ended up teaching a course on inventions in New York for the Learning Annex. And then later when I branched out to other cities I contacted those learning annexes and told them what I was doing in New York City and so I ended up doing that same course in Los Angeles and in San Francisco. And then through that, Invention Convention contact that led to just a whole host of other opportunities that came about. So it's just like a having an end into an industry where I was nobody and then all of a sudden I had friends and colleagues and other people that were able to refer work to me and to provide opportunities for me, to speak or to be involved in collaborative projects. So it just grew upon itself.

Steve: It's a really good example of taking that. I'd like to refer to that Zig Ziglar quote it's probably been including the top of this show, which is “You can have everything you want your life, if you help enough other people get what they want” and ultimately you are producing that magazine and you're teaching those classes to help other people get what they want and then the unexpected. You didn't do it and say I have to. You have to give me something in return but the unexpected outcome is that people end up seeking you out and and leveraging your own expertise.

Rich: That's the only way that it could work Steve. I mean it's like when you go out there and you contribute and you don't expect anything in return. First of all that's real contribution. That's not looking for tit-for-tat, where I'm doing something in order for something else to happen, but it's also an abundance mindset. I mean abundance mindset is all about, well it's the antithesis of scarcity. Scarcity, meaning that there just isn't enough to go around and I have to be careful of what I do and what I give because I might lose out. And we can't all win. If I gain something, that means you must losing something or if you gain something, it might cost me something. With abundance it's not really about a lot. It's not about the notion of this plan that there's a big quantity. it's about the non issue of how much there. It just doesn't matter. I go out there and do my thing and I can just trust in the fact that it's gonna come back to me. And I don't have to watch for how it's gonna come back to me because I'm trusting that it's going to and to me that's something which not only really works in the business world, they come from abundance but it also was a lot more peaceful than being in scarcity.

Steve:  That is so right. So I quite agree with you and that is certain part of the AWESOMER mindset too. to know that we live in a world of abundance and it's not if I get something somebody else doesn't get something or vice versa. But just this very idea that your mind doesn't have to work as hard to be scared all the time. Right? And that is a huge huge thing. So well.

Rich:  That's exactly it is. It's the notion that you don't have to work at it. You don't have to work at keeping it going and making sure that you don't end up on the street because you haven't been watching how it's coming back to you.

Steve: Yes, I just think that that's such a good insight. And I hope folks out there taking careful notes and paying particular attention to this as a side note. We will have the show notes available for this episode. I believe this episode number 21 so you can go to Awesomers.com/21  to find the show notes and links to Rich's firm and maybe some of the other things that we talked about during the episode. Rich as you once got into it and you started getting into the ideas, I'm just wondering if there's a day that maybe you looked back at and said this was a pretty good day. Like it was there any just moment where you looked and said I've arrived you know it put that in quotes.

Rich: Well I could think of a bunch of different examples of that and I guess it depends on what I mean by arrive. But in the early days of my career I played a pretty big game and I think... let's see I graduated law school in 94 and by the middle of 95 I had opened an office in LA in a townhouse right of the Sunset Strip. And we had a hot tub craned into the roof and I remember sitting in the hot tub there looking out at all the traffic on the Sunset Strip, people go to the House of Blues, go into back. Then it was the Roxbury or the Roxy, I forgot the Roxbury, I think Barry back then.

Steve: By the way, I've been to that House of Blues right there on Sunset. Nice.

Rich: Yes, it was a great era and I really enjoyed it back then. I was in my 20s and so I was up in my hot tub on the roof there and I said to myself; “You know what? There's no one graduated from law school who's doing anything like this right now”.

Steve: Yes. So this again is a very wise reminder that having a life worth living should be the objective. Right? This idea that we have to hashtag hustle ourselves until we die, to me it's a crazy notion. Doesn't mean we don't do the work hard but let's make the work that we do worthwhile and let's have some time to enjoy it as well. So I love that idea that there you are on the top of Sunset Boulevard in your 20s watching the world go by. Hollywood.

Rich: Yes, exactly. Well you just evoke that memory by asking the question which is cool. I hadn't thought about that in a while.

Steve: I like it. Well I'd like to remind Awesomers out there that from time to time we have to take our victory laps because the journey that we're on is just made up of moments. That is made up of memories. Right? That is something that has value to us in the long run. That particular money that you earn back then or the  whatever the little details of that day-to-day life that you were leading back then those things aren't going to fade away. It's not relevant today; it's the big picture memory. So I appreciate you sharing that with us. Let's switch gears. And was there ever a time when things were just not going so great? That you're like I don't know if I can do this, maybe I need to go get a job at a regular firm or when you just simply wanted to give up? Did you ever have a day like that?

Rich: Oh certainly. Yes there's always been. I mean being in any business there's always at the ebb and flow of it. And yes, there are times when cash flow comes to a low point and payroll is due and even there are a few successive pay periods like that and you watch your savings go down and down and you say oh. But I've probably been through that dozens of times over the last 25 years and it just comes and goes. So yes, there are always moments like that.

Steve: It's just part of the journey to face the adversary and just keep on going. And so let me just ask you this before we kind of get into the authority part of the episode where we talked more about the patent law and stuff. Is there any lesson that stands out from your journey that last 25 years or so that you've been running in business and in the law practice and so forth?

Rich: Well, I would say that it's all about relationships. Relationship is the foundation of accomplishment. Anything that you do no matter what field you're on, no matter what field you're in is founded on relationships. It's like you can be the most brilliant mathematician in a university setting but if you can't get along with your colleagues, if you can't form those relationships to get your work out there. No one's going to pay any attention. And you can have great ideas and again you need to create relationships in order to get those out into the world. So it's all about relationships and relationship is the foundation of accomplishment.

Steve: Boy I like that. That's a very good quote. People should write that one down, frame it, and put it on the old wall because relationships really are. This is another kind of equity I referred to earlier we talked about. Knowledge equity or the other types of things. Relationships have equity as well and it's not even the concept of that we're trying to get something from that equity. It's just that it exists and we can rely on it for help or support or our opportunity to help somebody else. There's so much to relationship so I really appreciate you mentioned in that. So we're going to come back right after another quick break and we're going to talk about a typical entrepreneurial challenge when it comes to facing patents and we'll be right back after this.


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Steve: Okay we're back again Awesomer and we're talking with Rich Goldstein about his background and some of the things that he's gone through as an entrepreneur and running his own practice. But now we're going to talk a little bit more about his specialty and what makes him an authority in the particular space of patent law. So Rich can you help me frame up the problem that a typical entrepreneur faces when it comes to patents. Let's say that they're going to sell any commerce and they don't know. Do they need a patent if they try to sell a product? How do they check if it's got a patent? Maybe you have some ideas of typical problems that we can talk about how they solve them.

Rich: Yes. Well the number one problem that entrepreneurs’ face, when they have an idea that they think they want to protect is not knowing how it works. Not knowing how the patent system works and not knowing who to turn to. I think it's those two things that stole most people from following through and protecting their products, protecting their inventions. And so beyond that, though I think that the two main big buckets of problems that entrepreneurs face is they're about to launch a product is wondering whether they can protect it and then wondering whether they're infringing on someone who already has a patent or already has the rights to it. And so those two concerns really splinter off in different directions in figuring out what their options are and what the issues might be.

Steve: Yes. So as I think about it, let's say for the sake of discussion that somebody's found a product. Maybe they're making some slight iteration on it but they're worried about it infringing perhaps on somebody else's patent. Can you give the broad strokes of the types of things that they need to do to protect themselves in that particular situation?

Rich: Yes. Well first of all let me say that to have a high level of certainty that you're not infringing will often take someone like me to help you break it down. That's just not much way over that. Is that if you want to really know if you're not infringing, it can get to be very expensive and it takes expertise to figure that out. But there are shortcuts. And what you really ought to do is to use some of these shortcuts to see if you can figure out that your situation is maybe one of those fun exceptions to that rule. Where you realize like oh okay it's not a problem at all and it doesn't even need analysis. So the point is some things need some pretty complex analysis but sometimes you can find the easy answer and then you can skip all that analysis. So let me give you an example, so if you have a product with a patent number and if you look up that patent number and you find out that the patent expired then right off the bat you know that you don't have a problem. Also if you do some research and you look up the related patents to a product and you find patents, that show that the concepts, the general idea of it and that they're more than twenty years old. You can bank on the fact that no one has a patent on the overall concept then the situation might be that some people have a patent on their specific variation or in some of the details of some of the improvements they've made from the general concept. But whatever that main concept is if you find old patents and when I say old I mean 20 years or older is pretty safe. Then that’s a shortcut to knowing that you can go ahead and makes something in that genre. You might need to be careful when you get too close to some of the more modern versions of it but you can certainly know that there's an opening there for you to make a product in that category.

Steve: So I like that in terms of the shortcut ideas and just for everybody out there listen, I'm a big advocate in terms of having expertise to deploy instead of beating my brain trying to figure this stuff out and even after I try to make these decisions  I would still be second-guessing myself. So having experts to help you with it is a helpful thing but Rich maybe we can even just fly up to the 30,000 foot view and help people understand that just because you have a patent on something doesn't mean it's not infringing on other people's patents.

Rich: Yes, exactly. And that's a very important point that most people don't realize. It's a very common misconception where people will say well I want to get a patent. So that if the patents granted I'll then know that I'm not infringing on anyone else and it makes sense. Right? I mean if you think about it. If I'm different enough to be patentable then that must be mean that I'm different enough, that I'm not infringing right? Makes perfect sense but it's just not true and I'll explain the way it works and there is an example. Actually I showed you once before Steve as an example with the chair. So Steve if you invent a chair that has four legs and a seat in the back. And let's imagine that no one has done that before. You can get a patent on that chair with four legs a seat in the back but then if I come along a few years later and I say you know what that chair is great but if we just had these things along the side to rest your elbows on it would be that much better. So I invent armrests and I basically put in my patent application for that chair with the four legs, the seat in the back, and the armrest. Now the Patent Office will consider it and they'll know about your patent for the basic chair and they'll make the determination that I've made a significant improvement with these arm rests and it's a non-obvious improvement as they would say and we can talk about that a bit later. And so then they would say yes it's palpable and they would grant the patent to me, then from my improve chair. But the reality is I can't make my chair with those armrests without having the four legs, the seat and the backrest. So therefore, I would be infringing your patent in the process of making mind and now the Patent Office doesn't care that I'd be infringing they just want to know that I've improved in a non-obvious way and if I have they'll grant me my patent. So having a patent granted does not guarantee you're not infringing someone else because very often another patent can be the building block for yours. In most cases though the building blocks are old and when I say old I mean at least 20 years old and so typically your improvement is not going to infringe other patents. It's no guarantee of that and having your patent doesn't guarantee it. But it's not like in every situation where you have an invention you are likely to be infringing because of course there were prior inventions. Usually those prior inventions are older and infringed not an expired.

Steve: Yes. They've passed their prize. So I do think this is an important point to say that listen, the idea of having a patent is reasonable because we want to protect something that's truly unique and noteworthy. And there are legal thresholds that require something to be unique and you said original and so forth that we may talk about a little bit. We may talk a little bit about those in a moment but I just want people to realize that just because you get a patent doesn't mean that you're not infringing on somebody else. And it's so often overlooked and I've met a couple folks in the recent year to where they had a patent they thought they were king of the world with that patent. And they were out there slinging product and they didn't realize that their patent infringement they ended up still having liability and they never saw it coming. So that's an important point we've covered that. Thank you for the thorough explanation. I look forward to receiving my royalties from your armrest on my chair.

Rich: Absolutely and that's a good point. That's how that situation normally has worked out. When you've improved upon an existing product and there's a patent enforce typically that would mean that I would work it out with Steve so that I'd pay him royalties for his portion of the invention and then I can still exploit the improvement I've made in my improve chair.

Steve: So I want to give you pretty typical examples of an entrepreneur where they're ready to sell online, perhaps are already selling online and they maybe even sold on the Amazon marketplace or the eBay marketplace. One of the common things that they get is an intellectual property challenge or patent challenge that somebody files and says;” Hey we have just filed for a patent on this we're coming to get you, you better stop selling that.” If I came to you with that kind of problem what general line of thinking would you take to address that problem?

Rich: Well first of all if someone has only applied for a patent, then they shouldn't be able to stop you from selling it. You're just applying for a patent doesn't give you the rights to stop anyone from making, using or selling the product. That's what an issued patent would give you, all those rights. So all things being fair and we don't necessarily know that Amazon is going to be fair, they shouldn't take the side of someone who just has a patent application because there's no telling what's going to happen to that. First of all it hasn't been decided if they're going to get a patent and it also hasn't been decided what the scope of that patent is going to be. When I say scope, what I mean is what actually is covered by it. Just as we were describing before the scenario with the chair being for four legs, a seat and a backrest; it's very possible