I've been involved with new products for over 20 years, and I've repeatedly met people who believe a product needs to have a patent in order to be considered an invention. I've never agreed with that concept. What matters in the marketplace is whether you have a product that gives customers something they want and can't get elsewhere. That alone doesn't qualify a product for a patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office requires a product to be "sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be nonobvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention." (For more information, visit www.uspto.gov.) Kristin Penta's cosmetics provide fun, excitement and a new look that's designed for teen-age girls. She hasn't been able to patent most of her products because they evolved from customer needs, not from the process of making cosmetics. I prefer to follow two of Webster'sdefinitions of the word invent: "to produce (something useful) for the first time through the use of imagination or ingenious thinking and experiment" and "to bring into existence or make known something new." Penta considered what her target customer group wanted and then figured out how to deliver a winning product. She decided that what counts with new products is to have a novel product that meets customer needs rather than a product that's nonobvious to a person skilled in the area of cosmetics. Granted, Penta would have more protection against competitors if she could have also received a patent for her cosmetic-making process. But in my eyes, not having a unique production process doesn't diminish her status as an inventor.
Fun Cosmetics Inc., (908) 289-9250, www.funcosmetics.com