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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What you need to know to file a patent

By John Frost

Patent filing tips
Patent applications include descriptions & illustrations
Once an inventor is really sure that they have a product or design which is genuinely patentable, then the next step is to file for a patent. Filing a patent is very confusing, and can be difficult even for those with previous experiences in patent applications to get the next one exactly right.

The first steps to filing a patent form involve three main steps: filling in a written document, creating drawings of the invention, and submitting the filing fee.
  • The written document. This is one of the most important parts of the patent application, and the one which is most often incorrectly filed. The document will including specifications, or details of the invention; claims about the invention, such as uses or purposes, and the Oath. The Oath is the statement confirming that the applicant is the one true inventor of the device being patented. This oath is must be taken in front of an officially sanctioned oath taker, and is legally binding. Swearing this oath on a false patent claim can result in prosecution, and is considered to be fraud.
  • Drawings of the patent device. These drawings are depictions of the invention. The patents must show all sides of the device, and may include internal details if these form part of the patent's 'novelty'.
  • Filing fee. Applicants for full patents (rather than provisional), must submit a fee for the filing of the application, including administration costs. Inventors who are also using patent attorneys may find that, with legal fees, the costs of filing a patent ran run into thousands of dollars.

Applying using the written document

With the Written Document part of the application, it is necessary to have complete specifications for the invention, including claims which outline the role of the invention, and which make clear its patentability. The specifications must use terms which are relevant to the product's industry or technology. The claims must make the differences between this invention, and other, related or similar, products. Applications should also include a 'best mode', that is the best use of the invention, detailing how it will be used.

In addition to these aspects, the written document must also contain the all-important oath, and must contain clear statements required by the Patent and Trademark Office. This Oath must be taken before a registered oath-taker.

Drawings of the patent

When you file for a patent, another important aspect of the application is the patent drawings. While this may not be possible in some forms of technology, particularly chemical formulas and medicines, most software, products and machine parts should be able to produce drawings. The drawings must show all forms of the design, including all sides of the exterior, and any interior changes. If the inventor cannot draw this accurately, or in proportion, then a patent attorney may be able to provide assistance, including the help of professional draughtsmen. Patent illustrators, specialists in this field, may also be able to help with this part of the application.

About the author: John Frost is a professional writer specializing in business, management and trade. He has more than 10 years of industry experience and to date, provides consultation services to various small and medium businesses across the globe.

Image credit smartphotostock.com

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Loans for entrepreneurs and start up businesses

By Darrell J. Hunt

Are you an entrepreneur with a great vision but don’t have the capital to get your idea off the ground? These days it is especially hard to find funding for start ups, but things are not as bad as they appear. Many organizations are out there looking to lend a hand to people that have the energy and know-how to start a great business.
Startup business financing
Several SBA loan programs help startups
SBA Loans

SBA or small business administration loans are loans that are made by banks, credit unions or nonprofit organizations. The difference though is that the United States government plays a role in the loan process. Below we will discuss some of the options available through SBA loans.

SBA 7(a) Loan Program

The 7(a) is the most common SBA loan. When you borrow from your lender part of the loan amount is backed by the SBA. This type of financing shares the risk between the bank, or other lending institution, and the US government. The 7(a) loan is especially designed for businesses that export to foreign countries, businesses located in rural areas and other specific business types. The funds can be used for the acquisition, operation or expansion of existing operations or to establish a new business. Some uses might include the purchase of buildings, land, machinery, furniture and supplies. The funds can also be used for working capital.

SBA CDC/504 Loan Program

The 504 program gives small businesses favorable financing over the long term for the purposes of expansion or modernization. The maximum loan amount is $5 million, and the loans are made in cooperation with a Certified Development Company (CDC). CDCs are nonprofit organizations that promote economic development by providing small business financing. 504 funds may be used for the purchase of buildings, land or land improvement, construction of facilities, machinery and certain types of refinancing.

SBA Microloan

The Microloan program loans up to $50,000 and is used for short-term needs and for some types of nonprofit child care centers. The funds come from nonprofit intermediaries with financial and lending experience. The funds can be used for working capital and purchases of inventory, fixtures, furniture and machinery. The intermediary also provides business technical assistance to the borrower. The loan term can be for up to a maximum of six years and collateral is required as decided by the loan intermediary.

Visit prlog.org for full details about all SBA loan programs.

Non-SBA financing for entrepreneurs

There are other options available outside of the SBA programs mentioned. One is peer-to-peer lending. In this model the borrower presents a plan, loan amount and posts the information on a peer-to-peer online lending platform. Multiple investors review loan listings and choose to lend to the proposals that attract them and payment terms are negotiated (time, rate, etc…). Borrowers make fixed payments and the lenders (also called investors) receive their payment with fees going to the peer-to-peer platform.

Many times the interest rates are very favorable to the borrower on these platforms, but the trick is to present an attractive plan and show the ability to make the payments.

Friends and family

It should never be underestimated the utility of tapping your social contacts who might be interested in investing in your startup vision. The presentation should be professional and polished with all terms and conditions spelled out clearly. An honest and realistic projection of returns should be presented along with a clear business plan. The destination of the funds should be spelled out clearly as well.


For the entrepreneur there are many government and non-government backed options available to get financing that turns your great business idea into reality.

Image license: Mike, CC BY 2.0

Why it is important to know what information needs to be included on your product labels

Product labeling tips
Some product labeling is legally required
By Tammy Wiltshire

You may have a great product, but if your label is not up to scratch, you’ll struggle to sell it. There are some types of information that we automatically expect to be on a label, and the information that is included is legally required to be truthful and not misleading. Relevant and correct information will ensure that your product is clearly recognisable and deemed suitable for use. It’s important to know what information should be included on your labels, as this is what will attract the customer and influence their decision, so it’s important to get it right from day one!

Know your sector There isn’t a standard set of rules that apply to all product labels; the only thing that you must bear in mind is that any information that you do include must be accurate. There are different rules for different business sectors, such as food & drink, footwear, precious metals and products for children - so if your product falls into any of these categories, it would be worth your while to read through the legal requirements regarding information that must be present on a label.  

The name of the product There’s nothing more important than a name. It makes your product recognisable and different from others on the market. People associate brand names with quality, affordability and reliability. It should be clear and easy to read, something that the customer will remember!  

What’s inside? The label tells customers what the product is, and what it contains or what its purpose is. For example, if you were designing a label for a bottle of wine, you would say what kind of wine that it was, where it was made, its vintage, and so on. It’s clear, concise, information like this that helps the customer to decide if they want to buy the product or not.  

Quantity or size Often, the size of the product isn’t clear from the packaging alone, so its weight or measurements should be included. If the product is being sold as a multipack, you should include that number on the label, to make it clear to the customer exactly how many they are buying.

Danger! If the product is hazardous in its nature or includes parts that are potentially hazardous, its label should contain a clear warning. If it is a dangerous substance or something that may include small parts that could be a potential choking hazard, it’s vital that you inform the customer.

Why is it important to be aware? By being aware of any information that is legally required to be present on a label, you will avoid running into any sort of trouble with Trading Standards laws. If you are selling a product that does not require any particular information, you should still include the above to ensure that the customer is not in any doubt as to what your product is, and if there are any safety concerns, they need to be aware of them. A label that includes the appropriate information is not only free of any possible implications, but provides the perfect introduction to your product. If you get the label right, you’re halfway to making a success of your new product venture!

About the author: Tammy Wiltshire is the Marketing Manager for Labelnet which specialise in the manufacturer of self-adhesive labels for wholesale and trade purposes.

Image license: FreeImages.com/HAAP Media Ltd., Royalty Free License

Monday, May 19, 2014

5 mistakes landlords make

Property management mistakes
Landlords should be aware of state required disclosure laws
Everyone knows that being a landlord can be a fraught profession. You are offering up a location that is designated as a place where people live.

People can get very particular about where they live, and that means that as the landlord, you might find yourself liable for a great deal more than you thought you were going to get in to.

There are five basic and common mistakes that landlords make. If you want to be a great landlord and to keep yourself free of harassment or legal issues, consider them carefully!

Mistake 1: Failure to disclose

Disclosing an issue means that the landlord is aware of an issue, and that he has made the tenant or the person planning on signing on as the tenant in a reasonable timeframe. This sounds fairly general, and the issue is that disclosure laws vary from state-to-state. For example, in one state, you may need to disclose whether or not there is mold on the premises. In another state, you might have to make the sexual predator status of another tenant known. Be sure that you know what the rulings are where you live.

Mistake 2: Letting issues go

Most landlords are very understanding people, and they believe that they can expect a lot of good out of their tenants. In general, this is true, but if you have a tenant that is constantly causing problems, whether it is with noise complaints or with property mismanagement, you need to act swiftly and without hesitation. A single warning should be enough to get a tenant to toe the line. Afterwards, it is often a good idea to look into disciplinary ations or eviction. It sounds harsh, but it can save you a lot of time and trouble.

Mistake 3: Failure to maintain the property

Make sure that every property is provided with a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm and a fire extinguisher. Get to know your local codes, but in general, this is the trimuverate that is necessary to keep everyone safe and sound. Once they are in place, set up reminders to go around and check them. For the most part, they will never see any real use. However, if they are needed and not present, you are courting both deep tragedy and a legal fight.

Mistake 4: Failure to insure the property

If you are a handy person, or if you are friendly with your tenants, you may feel as if you do not need to insure your property from anything but natural disasters. The truth is that people can be very, very destructive, and there are many places where the right insurance policy will keep you from disaster. For example, if you are found guilty of a charge like illegal eviction, illegal entry, or non-compliance with a safety law, the right insurance will cover the damages and any cost of litigation. Make sure that you keep this mind as you proceed; this is not a needless expenditure!

Mistake 5: Illegal evictions

Every single state has different statues regarding evictions. An eviction process can take months or weeks, and it can be quite complex. Make sure that you understand your state's policy and abide by them. Some landlords who are in a rush to get rid of problem tenants find themselves hurrying the process along. However, then they are blind-sided when they get hit with a legal issue. Be aware of what your tenant rights are, and evict accordingly.

Being a landlord can be trying sometimes, but on the whole, it is good work. Be aware of these issues and learn more about how you can be a better, safer landlord!

About the author: Tulsa Property Managers is a Jenks property management company offering professional property and real estate management, consulting and sales services throughout the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

Image license: Cincy Project, CC BY 2.0