What Should I Do If I Have An Idea For An Invention Or New Product?
We'll start to demystify this age-old question for you without the ill-informed guidance you likely find all over the web.
If you're reading this, you probably have an idea that you want to turn into a new invention or product (and yes, ultimately a profit), but you aren't quite sure where to start.
I have some good news: The hardest part of the invention process is coming up with the actual idea. There are thousands of inventors who struggle to come up with ideas, so you're ahead of the pack.
When an idea does hit you, the last thing you want is to be left sitting on your hands not knowing what to do.
Instead of being caught off guard, let's talk about ways you can monetize your idea.
Tips For Inventors: What To Do When You Have An Invention Or Product Idea
The first thing to remember when an invention idea does hit you is a really simple fundamental: Don’t advertise your idea!
Don’t share your invention with family or friends; don’t share it with acquaintances or colleagues; and certainly don’t go blogging, tweeting or face-booking it.
If your idea is a good one, and if it's unique, you need to keep it to yourself, especially at the all-important infancy stages.
If an idea gets stolen before it's patented, the hard truth is that you’ll never have the rights to it. One day you’ll be sitting on your couch and you’ll see a commercial for the product you ideated. You can probably chalk that up as “Worst. Day. Ever.”
When you have an invention idea you need to get protection for it.
You do that by filing a patent (or a Provisional Patent Application, depending on how developed your idea is...we'll get to that shortly).
But a patent is not what most people think it is, so be sure to do some reading about patents and understand them well - don't jump ahead. If you want to be successful as an inventor you have to use some caution and create yourself a knowledge base (and that is what Invention-Info is here for).
There are a lot of steps involved in filing a patent.
Filing a patent by yourself can be confusing and expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why we’ve gathered the ensuing tips on what you should do if you have an idea for a new invention or product.
Make Sure To Document Everything About Your Invention Idea Starting The Minute The Idea Comes To Mind
When you’re brainstorming about your idea, make sure you write all of your thoughts and plans down no matter how minor, trivial or loosely related they might seem.
At some point you will thank yourself for keeping track of and documenting every single passing thought related to your idea. There are people out there whose jobs are to rip-off and capitalize on weak patents.
Don’t be a victim; be an entrepreneur.
The backlog you're actually building with your documentation is like your invention instruction manual.
Take it seriously.
Don’t just settle for writing some notes down and putting it in an envelope and mailing it to yourself as a substitute for filing a patent. This is a rumor (yes, some validity behind it - but that's for another time).
Instead, go out and purchase an “inventor’s journal” to keep all your notes and ideas related to your invention in an easily chronicled and legible format.
Take your note-taking seriously and it will save you future headaches when it comes time to file your patent.
Keeping solid documentation about your invention helps on a number of fronts:
Revert Back To Grade School: Do Your Homework!
After you have your idea or invention extremely well thought out and documented, you can start to research and prepare for your patent filing.
If you ever want to capitalize on your idea and make money from it, you need to be beyond certain that your idea hasn’t already been thought of.
You can do a patent search for filed patents on your own via the government patent database online at the USPTO.
You’ll want to search for any “prior art” that depicts your designs or ideas in a graphic format.
An existing prior art would prevent you from filing your patent, else be prepared for a potential lawsuit that could stand up in court.
Basically, you need to take your idea seriously – so take your notes seriously and take your homework seriously.
To be a really great student, while surfing the USPTO you should spend some time looking through patents that are currently in effect that are close to or similar to your idea.
Get a feel for all the patents in this workspace and be prepared to be as specific or general as you need to be when attempting to get your patent.
Patents aren't the only hurdle, although it is typically assumed that they're the only difficult part of the invention process. Keep in mind there's still work to be done.
Traveling to your local bookstore and purchasing a handful of books on inventing is a good way to do some research as well.
It is an extremely mistaken idea that once a person gets a patent, they will immediately start making money and their product will find itself to the market. Research the invention process as much as you possibly can (this site is good for that) before continuing to the next steps.
Conduct research on the competitors in the field your product will compete.
Make a list of the companies producing these products, find out how much money they make, how well they sell, the pros and cons of the product, and people's perceptions.
It doesn't matter if the competitors’ products are in store or online, anything similar to your idea is a valid candidate on the list. This is called market research.
Just How Good Is Your Invention Idea? Is It Actually "Patentable"?
Beyond dodging copywriters and existing ideas, you need to do some pretty hefty market research if you plan on making money off of your idea.
This starts with understanding whether or not your idea is patentable.
At the most basic level, this means answering the following:
Beyond these three basic questions, you should explore the following:
You won’t truly know the answer to the question just by the responses from your immediate circle of peers. Investing in market research, testing, and focus groups can be costly, at first, yet entirely necessary for proving your product’s worth for future investors.
Again, market and competitive research will reveal the answer to this. Ultimately you want to understand costs to manufacture vs. projected sales vs. projected selling price (and yes, this is a rudimentary equation, but it can easily prove your idea completely upside down).
Here are some other articles you can dig into to do some soul-searching about your invention:
Building A Strong Prototype Of Your Invention
To obtain a patent, you don't actually need to have a prototype.
However, you should be able to properly define your invention with adequate specificity so that anyone with technical experience in the field of the invention can easily understand how the invention is employed.
Hence a prototype, while not required, is generally necessary and also just a really good idea. The majority of inventions were granted a patent after a prototype had been built.
The prototyping step depends entirely on your line of resources, but don't fret.
You will want to create a prototype that is the best you physically can depending on the utilities and equipment you have to work with.
This could be a physical representation of the idea, a drawing, or a detailed list depicting everything and anything you want your product to hold. Just keep in mind you want this to be the absolute best that it can be.
Ideally, you’ll want to have multiple revisions of your working model, especially for a physical object that will be packaged and sold.
This prototype needs to be air-tight and as close to shelf-ready as possible before you go file your patent.
If you have any major modifications that you need to make to it after filing, you will put your invention in danger of slipping into the hands of an opportunist waiting for the moment when your new design is stuck in legal limbo.
Once you have done all of this, then you can lock-in some partners and a patent attorney or agent to make your invention move from the drawing board to the production phase.
Don’t rush this process, skipping steps or throwing your invention at some big corporate invention mill is a great way to hand over lots of time, money, and creativity to suits who prey on the uneducated and desperate.
Determine Whether Or Not Your Product Idea Is Market Ready
Taking the steps above will help you determine the viability and patentability of your invention idea.
Throughout the process, you should be highly skeptical of anybody who says they have shortcuts or an easier way of making money off of a product. A lot times these (scoundrels) will be too good to be true, which means it won't be true.
For more in-depth information about determining the patentability of your idea, you can reach out to us for help (click the red button below), or visit this article that has some further insight and guidance.
You are the best and only person that can get your product to market, so it's time to get started…Happy inventing!
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