Taking A New Product Idea From Inception To Market
At the end of the day, a new invention is simply a means to an end; it's a solution that does not yet exist.
But everyone has ideas on how to make things better...why aren't there a zillion new products a year?
If you want to stand above the majority of people by actually following through with your idea, there are steps you need to take to safely do so.
Following the process separates ideas from products.
Before diving into the process of commercializing and profiting from your idea, the best upfront advice to give is this:
Make sure you are serious about your idea.
You should know upfront that developing the idea, patenting it, and eventually making money from it will take time and dedication. You'll need to be confident, persistent, smart and savvy.
The 9-Step Process For Turning An Invention Idea Into A Product And Making Money From It
So if you're serious about your idea, here are the 9 steps to follow in order to take it from idea to patent to invention to product to profit (broken down below):
Step 1: Document Everything
The first step in turning your invention idea into a profitable product is to document the entire process; your thought train beginning from ideation should exist on paper (at least until the process gets a little more modern and digital documents can be used legally).
Keeping a log of each step you take, receipts of all purchases, original or copies of all sketches and drawings, photographs of important models, and every other thought or asset related to your idea, is paramount.
You will need to document everything that has something to do with your invention – what your invention really is, how it functions, the process of manufacturing it and how you intend to market it. I can't overstate this, so I'll call it out:
You should write down every single thought and thing that is related to your invention idea.
Documenting the entire process is important because you need adequate proof to back up your claim that the invention idea was solely yours when you get to the patent process (or should you ever run into legal issues).
You will need to get an inventor’s journal – which is basically any bounded and consecutively numbered notebook – for effective documentation, and ensure that it is signed by a witness.
Step 2: Research Your Idea
You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that's wrong with it and fix it. Seek negative feedback, particularly from friends. -- Elon Musk
So this is not so fun to hear, but all inventors need to be told from the very beginning that only a small number of inventions actually end up being profitable, and not all inventions will make it to and in the market.
A lot of inventions end up being a financial disaster, and up to 90 percent of startups end up failing woefully.
Before you can be successful and transform your invention idea into a valuable and successful consumer product, you must be prepared to go the extra mile; and when you get there, you'll still need to go above and beyond.
I said it up top - this is going to take work.
Research has revealed that one of the major reasons startups fail is because they try selling products that people have no particular interest in, and inevitably did not want.
Up to 42 percent of failed startups investigated revealed the absence of market demand to be the major reason their business failed.
This is why determining whether there is a market for your invention before you fully commit and devote yourself and your resources into full product development and design is so important.
Deciding to bring your product to market requires a huge financial investment.
If you are not independently wealthy, it is important to have a realistic knowledge and idea of what the market need is, and the price range the market will comfortably bear.
Before your product can succeed, it must as a matter of necessity reflect the market demands. In your preliminary research, be sure to get a good sense of the composition of your potential customer base.
Make sure you have adequate knowledge of those that would need your product and would be willing to purchase it, exactly what they are in the market for, what the potential customers expect, and finally, what they actually need.
More information on developing your idea, keeping documentation, and researching your market can be found here:
Step 3: Patent Search
The first thing you would need to do before filing for a patent application is to ensure that you can actually get a patent for your invention.
Your idea has to be unique and non-obvious to be considered patentable.
This is why a preliminary patent search is important.
You can easily perform the patent search by using the database of google patents, or the U.S Patent and Trademark Office’s patent database.
You can also search through various online stores and forums in order to ensure that no other inventor has licensed the invention idea, and your proposed product is not on sale or published by someone else.
However, if you are newer to the world of patents or not 100% confident in your ability to facilitate the search successfully, we recommend you get in touch and get someone to help you with this - either by doing the search with you or by soliciting free advice.
The primary goal of the preliminary patent search it to eliminate any obvious obstacle to the process of acquiring a patent for your invention.
A patent will not be granted to you if another person is already selling a product similar to your invention.
If your invention idea has already been described by another inventor in any form of publication, then your invention also won’t be patentable.
After concluding your preliminary patent search and nothing turned up, you can then proceed to perform the professional patent search.
You will need a qualified and experienced patent attorney for this task, as they will be capable of performing a more detailed, extensive and effective search than you. If you fail to perform a professional patent search, it is likely that your patent application will conflict with previous patent applications and claims in the huge USPTO database.
For details on patent searches, here are some resources:
Step 4: Provisional Patent Application
After completing the patent search, a good idea is to file a provisional patent application (PPA) for your invention.
For a low cost, you can easily do this with or the help of a qualified and experienced patent attorney.
The PPA is something that you can file yourself; the fee is nominal and the benefits are great.
Obtaining a provisional patent is important for establishing a valid intellectual property for your invention.
It's also a safeguard if, say, someone else thought of the same idea as you (first to file!).
The provisional patent application gives you up to 12 months protection while you adequately develop your invention idea and design a prototype of your invention before proceeding to apply for a full patent for your invention. It's a time buyer.
In a nutshell, the provisional patent application gives you the opportunity to continue developing your invention without worrying about any other inventor stealing your idea before you are ready.
To really evaluate the need for the provisional patent application, read on in these articles;
Step 5: Prototype
One of the most rewarding and most likely fun parts of the invention development process is building the prototype.
Your invention prototype affords you the opportunity to tangibly view your idea and vision in full 3D...4D if, you know, it squirts water or something.
The prototyping phase allows you to learn about your invention; to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Watching your invention come alive in the development cycle is quite exciting.
Think about - in the opening of this article I pretty much said that everyone has ideas on how to fix problems all the time, yet most of them never do anything with the idea.
You get to look, touch, feel, smell, and taste (maybe) your idea. Prototyping is pretty awesome.
There are actually different types of invention prototypes available for various purposes.
The two major types of invention prototypes are functional prototypes and presentation models.
To read about use cases for each as well as some of the other types of prototypes, visit All Invention Prototypes Are Not Created Equal.
The prototyping stages include sketching, mockup building, and finally the prototype creation or development.
In order to have a functional prototype of your invention, a fully working model must be created. You'll use this prototype throughout nearly all following steps of the invention and patent process.
Step 6: Refine
With an adequate prototype of your invention, you can then proceed to "smoothing out the edges".
This becomes easy as the prototype you designed will give you an adequate view of what your product is, and how it will come out at that stage.
You can then proceed to remove redundant parts, or those parts that are either ineffective in the whole design or stand negatively out in the overall design and functionality.
The provisional patent application that you filed (providing you followed the steps above!) will afford you the luxury of time to refine your vision. Refinement is where you'll look to optimize the production, usability, features, functionality, and output of your invention.
While doing so, always keep the original problem you were trying to solve at the forefront; this should be your driving force in all fixes, updates and enhancements.
You can also change the overall design of your invention without any untold consequences at this stage, as you have yet to file for a final patent application. Basically, you have to refine and perfect your invention at this stage, before finally filing for a utility and/or design patent application.
So...are you patent-ready now?
If you followed the steps above, and did a thorough job, you should be patent-ready. But if you really want to double check - and you should - then have a read through this article to ensure you check the boxes.
Step 7: File A Patent Application
After successfully going through all the aforementioned steps, you are well on your way to filing a non-provisional patent application for your invention.
Patenting an invention does not come cheap - if anyone is selling you on a bargain in the patent process, you'd better think long and hard about the work you put in. Nothing good comes that easy. Here's a quick read for you if you'd like to understand the real price tags on obtaining an invention patent:
The Real Cost Of Securing An Invention Patent
You will have to choose between a utility patent, a design patent or a plant patent, depending on the class of your invention.
Utility patent applications are filed for machines or new processes, a design patent application covers the manufacture of new and nonobvious ornamental designs, and the plant patent application covers a new or unique plant that can reproduce asexually.
The duration of each patent application varies, just as the requirements needed to satisfy patentability. For deeper information on patents, check out these articles; this is a vital part of your process so I suggest reading as much as possible:
The actual patent application that you file is a vital cog in the wheel of success. What you write on your patent application becomes your patent.
It is possible for you to write out the patent and fill out the application form with no assistance. However, to actually file the application, you might consider a patent attorney or professional in the space to check it over and help you across the finish line.
To sufficiently protect your invention, it is imperative you hire an experienced patent attorney to file a bulletproof patent application. This guarantees that your invention would not be inconsequentially infringed upon.
To choose your patent attorney, you'll want to perform background checks and research, ensure that he/she is registered with the USPTO, and make sure you discuss the associated fees beforehand. Small patent firms often demand less fees, and are usually invested in your application.
Step 8: Create A Business And Marketing Plan
The majority of the inventions that end up in-market don't actually end up being profitable for the inventor.
Sometimes this happens because such inventions were not adequately marketable.
Mostly, it's because this step in the invention process was either missed or done in a slipshod manner. All that effort you've put in needs to carry through into your business and marketing plan.
This is where the money comes in!
If your aim is to make money from the product you invent, and you’re truly concerned about how to transform your idea into a viable consumer product that consumers can actually find and realize exists, then you have to methodically work out a business plan that is relative to your target market, your niche industry, and even your competition.
Before you can overcome the odds and successfully turn your idea into a consumer product, you have to treat the processes involved in the development of your product like it's a business.
Here is an in-depth article about how to create a business, marketing and sales plan for your invention.
This is all about strategy; the tactics of your approach will be dependent upon your invention category and everything that surrounds it - demographics, use-cases, etc.
If you want one-on-one help with creating and executing on your business plan, just let us know how we can help - this is what we do!
After establishing that your invention has viable market potential, you need to start thinking marketing and sales strategy and tactics. On the research side of this, start with defining these:
Questions To Ask When Devising An Invention Business And Marketing Plan
To work out a business plan for your invention, you should consider the following carefully:
Step 9: Deciding To License Or Manufacture Your Idea
This is a big decision inventors have to make.
There is a blend of business sense and emotion that goes into your thought train, and my best recommendation is to use logic.
Think about outcomes and best case scenarios; think about your full future and play out each scenario.
Do you have enough entrepreneurial skills to successfully go into the manufacture and sales of your own invention?
Do you have the time to personally pursue the manufacturing of your own invention, or would you rather focus on working on some of your other ideas and leave the manufacturing aspects to third parties?
Are you completely dedicated and attached to the overall success of your idea, and are you ready to put everything aside to pursue this?
All of these are personal questions and the answers will help you determine whether you are going to license your product to a third party, sell to a manufacturing company, or personally go into the production and distribution of your invention.
By licensing, you’re giving a third party the right to manufacture and sell your invention, usually for a certain percentage of sales.
The benefits derived from licensing an invention varies, depending on your negotiation skills and the pre-agreed contract. Often times however, the meagre royalty fees associated with licensing an invention can make investors shy away from licensing their invention. But again, you also have to consider all the risks, financial and otherwise, associated with personally manufacturing your own invention.
Summary: Bringing An Idea To Market In 9 Steps
The world will never be short of people coming up with ideas on how to fix something, improve something, or solve a problem.
What separates an inventor from an ordinary thinker is dedication, confidence, and persistence.
There is a thorough process inventors need to go through in order to achieve financial success with their invention. The process takes work - it's an investment of both time and money (and blood, sweat and tears!).
If you follow each step in accordance, you'll find that you know sooner than later if your idea can actually succeed in the market and provide you cash flow and income. Each step is essentially a check and balance. I hope this is helpful, and happy inventing!
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