Over the past year I have become extremely interested in strategies for patenting baby technology. Why? Because the industry is enormous and products designed for infants and toddlers are constantly evolving. Each new generation of baby products seeks to provide parents with useful (and hopefully beneficial) technology.
We have spent about the last year evaluating a series of baby products with an eye towards identifying critical differences and opportunities for patenting new ideas.
What options exist for patenting inventions designed for newborns, babies, infants, toddlers, children, etc.?
First, “baby technology” can include several kinds of products. (I’ve listed some of them below.)
These products could fall into one or more categories of patentable subject matter, including Devices, Machines, Compositions of Matter, and Processes. See “What can I patent?” Once framed within one of these categories, the usual criteria for patentability apply.
Baby Inventions – Examples of Patentable Ideas
New child care products constantly enter the marketplace. These include things like nail clippers, thermometers, monitors, diapers, lotions, soaps, teethers, clothes, furniture, etc. Here’s a recent example of how I stumbled upon a source of innovative baby products….
Earlier this week, I was walking on Front Street in Issaquah, Washington. I noticed a new BooginHead store. I couldn’t help myself from banging on the window because I have been really geeking out over baby technology. They let me in. (I love Issaquah).
Within 5 minutes, I could tell that BooginHead is an innovative company. They are making new products. They focus on solving problems and creating better products for parents.
After a small amount of web research, I confirmed my hypothesis. About a decade ago, BooginHead’s CEO, Sari Davidson, developed a new product called SippiGrip. The SippiGrip product basically solves parents’ problems with their child’s cup throwing games. Since then BooginHead has been dedicated to “launching new and useful product for parents.” Thank you Sari and BooginHead!
Can I Patent My Baby Invention?
At a high level any question of patentability usually depends on whether the invention is new. In other words, has the invention been previously disclosed? If not, then the invention is probably new.
The second question is whether the invention would have been obvious when it was invented? If not, has any combination of publications provided enough guidance to render the invention obvious? In other words, would another baby tech innovator have considered your invention obvious after reviewing the prior art?
When I work with inventors, I usually suggest organizing the closest alternatives to their invention into a table of differences. I find that making a table of differences often improves the information exchange between innovators and their patent professionals.
Categories of Patentable Baby Products
Baby Foods and Feeding
Although natural foods are not patentable (not new), the number of engineered foods increases every day. These include baby formula, nutritional supplements, etc. Patenting new food technology in a separate post. Those principles apply to baby foods.
In addition to foods, the industry is constantly introducing new feeding technology. Feeding technology includes products like cups, bottles, plates, flatware, placemats, etc.
New games, books, toys, and other entertainment products could be patented as devices or machines. Some examples of “toys” would including things like Baby Rattles, Musical Toys, Ride-On Toys, Blocks, Balls, Teether Toys, Bath Toys, Dolls, Action Figures & Statues, Stuffed Animals & Plush Toys, Arts & Crafts, Puppets, Games, Puzzles, Sports & Outdoor Play, Tricycles, Scooters, Wagons, etc..
Electronics, Software and Mobile Device Apps for Kids
In today’s world, there’s an app for almost everything, including entertaining and/or educating children. Accordingly, we see lots of new apps for tablets (e.g., ipad aps), phones (e.g., iPhone apps), televisions, computers, so-called “Kids’ Electronics,”Video Games, or other technology designed for children.
These new and useful software tools are potentially patentable as methods, systems, and/or processes. For example, at Chadeayne LLC, we have an ongoing project that is focused on developing an educational mobile app for 0-2 year olds.
Little people have many special furniture needs. For example parents of small children often need ways of safely, comfortably, and reliably confining their children. Devices for confinement include cribs (and variations like pack-n-play), car seat, pillows, bouncy chairs, Kids’ Décor & Storage, swings, and non-tipping seats, etc. New baby furniture products are usually patentable as devices or machines.
Methods Useful for Babies
New methods or processes are potentially patentable. Sometimes the new method of process exists alongside a new device or composition. However, sometimes the innovation arises from using an old device in a new way. In either case, the method or process is potentially patentable. The challenge to patentability comes from defining the new method or process in a way that demonstrates some concrete real-world results. (Not just abstract thinking).
We are presently working to create several new methods of teaching children under 2. For example, we are working with leaders in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to develop methods of teaching children under two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Sounds crazy right? Good. That’s one indication that it’s probably innovative activity.