(According to Judd Smith)
Wow. A patent? How cool is that? How hard was it? We get many questions about our LED system increasing the visibility of motorcycles. People genuinely want to know the Lightning Strike patent story.
So, we’ll shed some light on our patent process and timeline. Thank goodness it’s now in our rear view mirror.
- Yes a patent. Thanks USPTO!
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officially made our goal a reality. The issue date was August 14, 2018. It is patent number: US 10,046,695.
- It’s very cool.
Picture cruising along on your motorcycle. You’re riding with a cool breeze, into an amazing sunset. The one you love is wrapped around you. It’s heaven on two wheels. Life is good. Getting a patent is almost as cool as that.
- Maybe ignorance is bliss after all.
Like the driver who texts while speeding. Like the motorcyclist who thinks shorts, flip flops, and a backwards baseball cap, are protective gear. We didn’t dwell on the risks. We hit the road. We believed in the Lightning Strike patent story. In hindsight, the odds against you don’t matter when you succeed.
- The Lightning Strike Patent Story began in March 2013.
I was residing in Cave Creek, Arizona. It’s a quaint small town with lots of biker activity. A friend asked if I could repair the electrical system on his V-twin motorcycle. I could. Biker and bike were happy.
I took her for a road test. She was smooth. I was not. I was confident with the repairs. But she felt very big. At the time, I had far more mechanical and engineering experience than motorcycle riding. I’d been mostly a dirt bike rider, with only one trip to the emergency room.
The test drive tested me. I felt a tidal wave when a big pickup truck pulling a trailer sped by. For the first time, I was scared and vulnerable. I was no match for several tons of steel.
Minutes later, I came to a yellow light at an intersection. In the opposite direction, a car was turning left in front of me. I thought, “Oh no. What should I do? Hit the brake? No. I’m going too fast. I think I’m about to die.” I frantically flashed the high-beam-low-beam switch back and forth. I hoped to get the driver’s attention. I’ll never forget seeing his wide-open mouth and puzzled look on his face. “It worked,” I thought.
This was my “Ah Ha” moment.
I kept thinking about how the flashing lights may have saved my life. I searched online for a motorcycle safety lights system. Nothing. I knew I could design and create one.
I landed a motorcycle, and parts including quality LED lights. I built a working system and began road tests. I came up with the name, Lightning Strike. This after hearing the AC/DC song, “Thunder Struck.”
Karla (now my wife and partner) supported my quest. We did months of research together talking with many bikers. We couldn’t find one who liked being cut off on their motorcycle.
When we’d show the system or ask people if they’d be interested in such a thing, the responses were similar. “Hell yeah.” “Absolutely.” “I’d put that on my bike right now.”
This fueled our souls. It led us straight past the last exit ramp for this motorcycle safety lights idea. We were in hot pursuit of a patent.
- September 6, 2013. Patent attorney, Adam Stephenson, submitted a Provisional Patent Filing for the Lightning Strike “Vehicle Visibility System” (as formally called in the patent declarations).
One week later, we got a receipt from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This began our limited patent protection. It offered one-year coverage as product development continued.
- August 10, 2014. Lightning Strike rolls the dice in filing an official, Non-Provisional Patent Application.
After 11 months, product design was perfected. The business began selling motorcycle safety light systems around the world using the “patent pending” label. We went full throttle, bypassing a design patent because of its limited protection. Lightning Strike filed for a full, utility patent for its idea.
- Patent and Patience.
These two words share most of the same letters. That’s about it. The similarities end there.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gets many applications. All of them are important to the applicant. All are important to the professionals at the USPTO. All applications undergo a serious review.
Time flies…except when waiting on a patent. Patience is hard when your big idea and business future are riding on one decision beyond your control.
(NOTE: If the patent waiting period doesn’t break a couple, it makes them. So, the Lightning Strike Founders made their relationship official. After a long day working their booth at the Las Vegas BikeFest, they took a break. They rode to the Little Vegas Chapel where they were married…on a motorcycle. After exchanging vows and rings at the wedding, they rode back to BikeFest).
- November 1, 2017. 3 years and 3 months later. Lighting Strike receives its first message from the USPTO. It said, they would begin an “office action.”
This meant the Lightning Strike Patent story was being read. Our application was in play. Hold on to the handlebars for dear life. Hope your motorcycle safety idea doesn’t get hit by a truck.
- November 9, 2017. The following week, the USPTO said the patent could be approved…with some minor changes to claims made in the application.
Lightning Strike made the requested changes at lightning speed. Back to waiting.
- April 15, 2018. On tax day, word rolls in of the refund of our dreams, prayers, actions, and monies.
Attorney Adam Stephenson notifies us the USPTO was going to issue the Lightning Strike patent. More patience includes a thorough review of the patent itself.
- August 21, 2018. The USPTO officially notifies us it has granted a full utility patent to Lightning Strike for a vehicle visibility system.
The official patent issue notification arrived two days later. It was 4 years and 9 months after the initial filing.
A utility patent lets you own the idea. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office mandates a competitor cannot build any type of system to duplicate the purpose of your invention. This is regardless of how they design it. The right to flashing lights on the front of a motorcycle for the purpose of getting a driver’s attention belongs solely to us.
Let the next chapter in the Lightning Strike Patent story begin.