Can You Patent a Woodworking Joint?

Thoughts on whether woodworking ideas qualify as intellectual property. May 21, 2009

I have a joint that is used to connect a rail to a stile or a horizontal to a vertical as in a table leg. I have worked on this joint for a couple years and have looked for it in every book I could get my hands on and have not found it anywhere. Is it possible to patent a joint design? It is a glueless and non fastened joint that is decorative and unique.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor J:
You're not going to get a meaningful answer unless you talk to an intellectual property lawyer. Even if you do that, the chances that it will be worthwhile are very slim. Even if you got a design patent, enforcement seems impractical.

From contributor M:
So what's the title of this thread about? Is the joint in the Japanese tradition, or is it original? It seems rather difficult to patent something with such broad existing ownership, no?

From the original questioner:
I don't know if it is in the Japanese tradition. It is similar in design but has a unique aspect I cannot find pictures of anywhere in any Japanese joinery books, etc. It's interesting to think of intellectual property, but it is an actual functional method of joinery.

From contributor T:
The chances of you getting a patent, let alone defending it, are unlikely. You’re better off introducing it to the world and selling the tools and instructions to do it.

From contributor R:
I was putting together a Sauder knockdown desk that I bought for my son and discovered in the instructions that two of the joints had been patented by Sauder. One was a kind of a clever CNC for the drawer boxes. The other was a very standard sliding T-joint - something that myself and probably a million other cabinetmakers have used before. I think we are on to something interesting here. Maybe a call to Sauder?

From the original questioner:
I'm not trying to keep anything from other woodworkers, and I don't have any hopes or desires of becoming a super wood celebrity. I enjoy design and working with wood. I just wondered about the idea of patents on joinery. I think the best advice is to talk to an attorney, unless anyone on the wood web has already had experience in this area. I'm curious about the outcome.

From contributor S:
We have a number of design registrations on some of our furniture. The first one we did through a patent lawyer and everyone was returned because there were issues with the drawings. I went back to the lawyer, assuming he knew what was required and he handed me a book and said start reading. He had inspected everything before it was submitted and said it was fine, but it wasn't so it cost more money to re-submit . It took over two years to finish the deal .The end result was we decided that he didn't know much about furniture designs registrations. The next three times we did it all online on our own and didn't have a problem. If you do it yourself, the cost is considerably less than through a lawyer. It is not a patent you are looking for because you didn't invent a woodworking joint you designed a different one. It is a design registration, or it may qualify for a utility patent which is for a system. You basically submit drawings and a description and they figure out if it qualifies. I think it costs about $400 to do it on line and it cost $3,000 minimum through a lawyer. Maybe it is worth a try to do it on your own and if it works fine and if not, oh well.

From contributor M:
Patents are a way of sharing innovations with your fellow citizens to make our country stronger. In exchange for sharing you get the exclusive right to use without competition for X amount of time. The competition among woodworkers is much different than the competition among other types of manufacturing. Woodworkers like to solve problems more than they like to create them. I don't know anyone that thinks they are going to get rich in woodworking. If a woodworker makes a couple of hundred thousand a year he's happy even if it's a 2% ROI. If you think you have a good idea share it in an article in a wood magazine. The magazine will pay you and your name will be tied to it.