From Idea To Patent To Successful Product: 3 Steps To A Path Less Strewn (Part 1, The Invention Idea)
What To Do With Your Invention Idea
Following the patent search to determine if your idea is patentable, the first step in the invention process is developing and documenting your idea. Here's how.
Often the largest barrier between a simple idea and a patented invention is simply knowing what to do next.
Step 1: Your Invention Idea
At some point in your life you've probably had one of those "aha" moments.
You realized there was a flaw, something missing, or an opportunity to create a better way of accomplishing something.
Although everyone has these moments, few latch onto their idea and realize that there is an invention trying to reveal itself.
Even less actually look to develop that idea and patent it.
All that to say: Inventors are people.
They're not superheroes. They're not always rich to start and they're not necessarily of some intergalactic IQ level that makes your above-average intelligence seem equivalent to a rock.
No... inventors are just people. Like you.
However, regardless of background, IQ or super powers, successful inventors do possess certain common innate qualities.
One of those qualities is drive.
They have the drive to be persistent and follow through relentlessly with each step in the invention process.
Successful inventors are hungry for success - they envision it and push themselves to find the path toward it.
The everyday ideator who puts action and intent behind his idea with this level of drive is going to become a successful inventor (provided the product is viable, of course).
It happens all the time on Shark Tank right in the public eye, and it happens hundreds of thousands of times per year elsewhere.
If you think you're just the "everyday ideator" and don't have what it takes to push your idea through to success, take a look at the video below, "From Idea to Money," an interview with Rick Hopper.
Rick is one of Shark Tank's most successful entrepreneurs. He created ReadeRest, a magnetic clip that secures reading glasses onto your person.
It was a simple idea generated from the fact that Rick kept losing his reading glasses. Invention ideas are often right in front of your face - in this case, literally.
Well, $8MM/year later, that simple idea is an inspiration.
Taking Invention Ideas To Success
If you've ever googled anything related to patenting an invention idea, you were probably inundated with marketing messages and advertisements for days, weeks, and maybe even months following your search.
Just remember this: You cannot patent an idea.
Gasp! But wait...I keep seeing ads and companies that tell me, "Patent your invention idea quickly!" and so on.
Yes, correct, but it is not this initial idea that you would look to immediately patent.
The initial idea about how you will create, fix or improve something needs to morph to become an actual invention. You'll have to do some work...you'll need some of that drive to get there.
The truth is that your initial idea could be an invention and it could be patentable, but you need to do some surrounding and comprehensive research to ensure a few things:
The Devil Is In Your Idea's Details
When you are able to describe your idea in great enough detail, the idea then transcends to another level. It becomes the beginning of your invention.
Rick Hopper's idea was simple: "I need to stop losing my reading glasses."
He added details to that idea, enough to finally come up with ReadeRest, his own invention. Now I'm not Rick, but let's go through what that may have looked like.
One night, Rick was sitting in his love seat catching up on "Highway To Sell."
A commercial came on, and that was Rick's cue to pick up his tablet and catch up on the news of the day.
But as he clicked the CNN app he realized he didn't have his reading glasses.
He frisked his lap to no avail.
He looked on the coffee table; nothing. Night stand; no-go. Where are those reading glasses?
So inventors, this is what's called a "pain point."
If you're actively looking for ideas for new inventions, they are literally everywhere - you just have to keep your eyes peeled for the pain points.
How do you know it's a pain point?
Good question, simple answer.
If you feel frustrated by the way something works or by something that keeps happening (like losing your reading glasses while you're watching TV), think about your issue on a grander scale. Do you think more people are losing their glasses? If yes, then proceed!
Well, Rick had to detail out the problem and think of how to solve it. He did this with solid documentation and meticulous attention being paid to it daily.
In his case, the solution was magnetized. Now, did Rick invent the magnet? No, of course not.
So another tip: You can use existing products or inventions as a piece of your solution. But as you are detailing your idea, you must specify exactly how it is used and why your invention is still unique.
Documenting Your Invention Idea
Documenting is a crucial component of the inventing process.
At some point you may need to rely on your documentation during scenarios such as legal proceedings or establishing or maintaining rights to your invention.
It is critical that you document your activities properly - your documentation may one day have to be respected in court and you should keep that in mind as you're working on it.
Because of the implications of your idea documentation, the best practice - and essentially a must - is to document everything in an inventor's journal. This should be a bound book with numbered pages and every single page and note should be dated.
Benefits Of Invention Idea Documentation
There are several benefits to documenting your ideas as you move through the stages of the invention process.
1) Proof - Every patent must disclose the inventors of the idea, and your journal can prove your "inventorship".
2) Expedite the patent process - A well-documented invention idea helps streamline the process when you fill out your patent application. This is a way you can save time and money in the future - two highly valuable assets.
3) Think and re-think your idea - Writing forces you to think through your activities and ideas to clarify what it is that you have actually invented. This process can elicit further ideas on how to change or improve your initial vision.
4) Sanity - Documentation helps you remember what you have done and thought of in the past and prevents unnecessary redundancies in your work.
5) Taxes - If the time you've spent ideating and inventing are part of a business, you may be able to seek tax deductions for the expenses that you incur. You should speak with your accountant about whether or not this applies to you.
Document Your Idea With These Details
The goal of detailing out your idea for an invention is to expand so deeply into the concept of why your idea is such a great invention, and what it solves, that anyone who reads it will fully understand the description and agree with you that your idea needs to be an invention; it can better the world, even if in some small way.
When you have enough detail to accomplish this, you are then going to be ready to patent your idea...or your invention...it's kind of both at this point.
Here are some of the details you'll need about your idea. Make this your 'at minimum' list and, based on your invention and category, expand upon it as necessary:
1. A stellar description of what your idea is and what it does (you will need this for the Specifications portion of your patent application so it isn't for naught or flair - do a great job). The description of your intellectual property should start broad and then dive into the details of process and mechanics. Here is a great outline of what your description can include: Title or name of your idea; the technical field and category it falls under; background information on prior art, previous patents or patents pending (in other words, how have others attempted to solve something like this); the problem or challenge your idea will address and how you will address it differently and successfully (becuase your idea needs to be unique); an example or two of use cases for your idea
2. Drawings, diagrams, and illustrations of how it works and what it looks like. Dimensions are good here as well so all can visualize and conceptualize the size of the real-life model. You can refer to your invention's diagrams in your description. And remember this tip: More is more. The more illustrations and diagrams you have, the better you will see your idea, and the better someone else can translate what your idea is and does. (By law, you will need at least one drawing to apply for the patent)
3. What will it be made out of? Try to list materials in as much depth as possible. Talk about the details of each part and how they fit together and work together. Materials, chemical formulas - they should all be here.
4. Various "embodiments," or versions, of the invention idea. The hard truth is, not everyone will see things your way. Your idea, albeit proprietary to you, can be altered. You'll want to account for the potential variations of your own invention. The main reason is simple: If you do not describe variations of your invention and someone else has virtually the same invention but a different way of creating it, then it is no longer your invention (especially with the First to File (FTF) laws).
5. Dates. Everything needs to have a date. Every idea, every diagram, every thought and every time you go back and cross out a thought from a previous date - sign and date everything.
6. Target market of your invention. You'll want to think about your end-users, your buyers, and anyone else in the circle of influence. If you've invented a type of clothing, you're listing out who wears it, but also who may manufacture it, who may buy it for the person who wears it, what it competes with - anyone you think your product is relevant to.
If you've completed this list for your idea, you're well on your way to filing a patent and having an invention of your own. If you'd like help with getting a patent or filing your application, let us know what we can do to support you.
My suggestion is not to rush this part of the process.
Complete the exercises, take some time away, and then revisit what you came up with. Your detailed description and diagrams should make your idea implementable by anyone who uses it.
Remember, once you file your patent you can't make changes. The application you file becomes your patent.
You want to be double and triple certain you have the information you need about your idea in that application.
**Side Note: You should probably describe your invention at slightly more detail than Luke in the video below. After you've enjoyed the quick comic relief, read on to see what else you need to know
This article is part 1 of a 3-part series geared to help inventors take an initial invention idea all the way through to commercialization and ultimately profitability. Follow the links below to see the subsequent parts:
The Patent: From Idea To Patent To Successful Product: 3 Steps To A Path Less Strewn (Part 2)
The Business Plan: From Idea To Patent To Successful Product: 3 Steps To A Path Less Strewn (Part 3)
If you would like to continue reading about the earliest stages in the invention process, mostly based around invention ideas, below are a few select articles that may empower you and improve your knowledge base:
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