After I green-lighted this project in my head, one of the first things I did was call a lawyer. (See how fast things get complicated and expensive!)
I was lucky enough to already know one of the best intellectual property attorneys in Metro Detroit, John Carlson of Carlson, Gaskey & Olds in Birmingham, MI, so I reached out to him to discuss my idea to file a provisional application for a patent.
A provisional application, which is filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, gives you one year to file a regular non-provisional patent application.
That gives you time to finalize your idea, design and business plan, and even to change your mind and not go through with the full application, which can be an expensive ordeal that lasts years. The average wait time to get a patent application process is 24.6 months, according to the USPTO. But my lawyer told me to plan for 3 years and to expect that my application would initially be denied as part of routine protocol.
One of the great things about a provisional application, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t have to be filled with a ton of detail.
In my case, that was very helpful because there were some design aspects of the project I wasn’t sure of just yet.
I, of course, had my own shaker bottle, which I had cobbled together years ago and cleaned my brushes with for years. It was actually a medium-sized sports drink bottle with the bristles of a hair brush, which I had cut from the handle, including the rubber pad, hot glued into the bottom. I also dried my brushes on an elevated silicone mat, which was actually a clothing iron rest.
So while I had the general concept down, and I knew it worked extremely well, I wasn’t quite sure of how I, technically, wanted to embed the nodules in the bottom of the container just yet.
I knew that I didn’t want the plastic container and the nodules to be all one piece, or material, because the nodules would then be too hard when they engaged the brush hair. I needed for them to be soft but firm — just like on a hair brush — and that meant two different materials for the container and the cleaning disk.
Initially, I thought I might use a big suction cup on the bottom of the cleaning disk to stick in the bottom of a regular flat-bottom container. But I was open to ideas, and the provisional application gave me time to work through some concepts with a product designer or engineer.
When I called John and started telling him about my idea, he responded in a way that I’ve started to get used to since I started this project.
“We have an attorney here who was just complaining to me about how she hates cleaning her brushes,” John said to me.
“Seriously?” I replied.
John was, it turns out, 100% completely serious, and said that maybe Karin Butchko, an attorney at CGO and serious beauty product lover, should handle this one.
So Ms. Butchko became my attorney and would work with me to file my provisional application, which we did on July 9, 2013.
I now had exactly one year to get my act together, on top of my day job and family responsibilities. Tick, tick, tick … There was quite a lot to do.