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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

J.D. Houvener: They want to use an exclamation mark in the name, like replacing the “i” with it. For example, “Yes! Home St!ck” instead of “Yes Home Stick.” What do you think about that?

Matt Kulseth: That’s a great idea! From a trademark standpoint, you can definitely do that. The USPTO will allow you to file it as a word mark, meaning a character mark. So, if you replace the “i” with an exclamation point, the USPTO will treat it as an “i” for search purposes. When they do their search, it will be like searching for “Hom Stick.” In some ways, they’ll refer to it as a pseudonym. So, for all intents and purposes, it’s “Hom Stick” with an “i” when the USPTO is doing their research, just like we are.

J.D. Houvener: Right on! Good answer. So, I had an idea for seeking a patent on specialty soaps for people with dermatological conditions. I was thinking of adding over-the-counter generic medication to the soap. Generics are obviously in the public domain. Would it be possible to get a patent on the soap?

Matt Kulseth: Perhaps! It depends, though. We’ll need to do some research, as that’s the number one thing we do—patent research. There are two big criteria: it has to be the first of its kind, and it shouldn’t be an obvious addition. For instance, combining specific elements with soap in unique proportions. The challenge, especially for recipes or simple add-ons, is whether these additions are considered obvious combinations.

J.D. Houvener: I see. So, it’s not a definite no?

Matt Kulseth: Exactly! It’s within the realm of possibility. We just need to figure out the specifics of what you’re trying to put together. If the over-the-counter medications you’re using are known to be skin-related, it might seem obvious, as people typically clean their skin and then apply medication. But who knows? There could be unique aspects.

J.D. Houvener: Interesting. I would love a soap that doesn’t need to be washed off. Is that even possible?

Matt Kulseth: That would be amazing! A soap that you just lather up and dry off without leaving any residue. If there’s a unique process to get the medication to integrate with the soap, that could be a game-changer.

J.D. Houvener: Could they potentially get a patent if they have a unique process to combine the medication with the soap?

Matt Kulseth: You’ve nailed it! If they figured out a way to mix something like peppermint oil with soap in a new, stable way—maybe by heating it to the right level or using a specific method—that could definitely be patentable. A process patent could have broad applications beyond just one type of soap.

J.D. Houvener: I love that! Thank you, Matt.

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at