That is essentially what the inventors of the Joulies admitted this week on Shark Tank.http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/episode-detail/episode-414/1056608. The basic idea behind the Joulies is to put something that looks like a small stone in your coffee to cool it down when it is too hot and to warm it up when it gets cold. The company web site is: http://www.joulies.com/#. They were good enough to get four of the Sharks to invest in them, although they had to grant the Sharks a perpetual royalty.
But they have bigger probelms than that. The inventors claimed to have a pending patent application. They also told the Sharks that the insides of the Joulies were a secret. I thought that was odd because if you file a patent application you have to tell the world how to make your invention. So I went and looked it up. It is published under number US 20120061050. Sure enough, they mention that the Joulies have a phase change material, but they never disclose what it is. The application has not yet been examined. Howecer, if I were an examiner, I’d reject the claims for not being enabled. Of course, there is also the issue of failing to disclose the Best Mode, although the teeth of this requirement have recently been knocked out. While the patent office may eventually issue this patent, overlooking the enablement problems, trying to enforce it would be a whole different matter.
I continue to marvel at how the Sharks always ask if the inventors have protection on their ideas. They all respond and say that they have filed a patent application and the Sharks let them off the hook. (BTW, for all of the other inventors on the show, I looked up their applications and couldn’t find any of them). Maybe the Sharks really don’t care and think they have good enough marketing skills that they don’t need it. They problem storm the market, get their money back, then could care less if anyone else copies the idea. Not a bad gig if you can get it.