Prototyping, Licensing And Manufacturing In The Invention Process
If you’re an inventor embarking on the journey of brining your product or idea to market, you’re going to run across some vocabulary that might be new to you.
Even if the words aren’t new, the context in which inventors use certain words may have a slightly altered meaning to you.
A few of the words you’ll need to become very familiar with in the invention process are prototyping for inventions; licensing your invention idea; and manufacturing your invention or product.
A 3D or 4D model on which a product is patterned is referred to as prototype.
Prototypes can range from an unprocessed mock-up which was created by the inventor, to more enhanced virtual prototypes that have been professionally designed to serve as functional samples.
The development of a prototype is the first step required for “reducing the invention to practice” – a process of taking an idea and transforming it into a substantial product.
A professional prototype company, such as a model maker or a virtual designer, can be employed for assistance with developing the prototype if you're unable to approach this step on your own (let's face it, just because we're incredibly smart doesn't always mean we're skilled in the fine arts).
We can help get you in touch with prototyping companies that serve your specialty should you need some help finding one.
Prototypes can range from tape and cardboard to professionally designed and developed working models. Inventors need to keep in mind, however, that this is a tool to help you get your patent, pitch for funding, and sell your invention; it's not a 3rd grade art or science project.
A few tips on invention prototyping
Tip #1: Try to do it on your own first.
Prototyping is going to be different for every inventor.
Based on the complexity of your invention idea, there is a chance that rudimentary materials and just a little bit of time are all you need to successfully build your prototype.
Even if you start building your prototype and realize part of the way through that you aren't able to complete it, you've become that much more knowledgeable and intimate with your idea.
That insight will benefit you in hiring a company to help you bring your model to life.
Tip #2: Learn about raw material costs as you build your prototype
If you followed all the right steps in the invention process, you have already done some homework.
Part of that should have included an evaluation of what you can sell your product for when it's "on the shelf".
Based on how many units of your product you think you can sell and how much you think you can sell it for, you'll want your prototype to teach you how much it will cost to manufacture the invention.
This is why they say "Inventions can die in the prototype stage"
Tip #3: Find the right audience for your prototype
The prototype is much more than just a "cool thing to have" - it's a tool that you can leverage several times in the invention process.
Before creating your prototype, think about who will be seeing it and giving you feedback on it.
Is it to show a patent examiner?
To use for a pitch to an investor?
To explain the functionality to a manufacturer or potential licensor?
Think about who will see the prototype and try to ask yourself questions that they will ask so you can pre-empt being caught on your heels and having to redo the prototype.
Licensing vs Manufacturing
Manufacturing and licensing are the two primary options for taking invention ideas to market. The option you choose in going to market will drive the various decisions that you make in the course of investing in patents.
Manufacturing on your own
Whether you personally choose to manufacture your own invention by employing manufacturers overseas or domestically, you do not really have a choice about developing a prototype. As long as you cannot manufacture except you know how it works then you will just have to prepare for manufacturing by developing a prototype of your invention.
It may likely be an easier process of setting up the manufacturing if you choose to utilize a domestic manufacturer, but this process may be quite expensive for molds, unit costs, and setup. However, manufacturing overseas also has its pros and cons.
Some countries abroad such as China and Taiwan can help you to manufacture your invention overseas. These manufacturers are good at copying a finalized prototype that has been provided for mass production. Typically, you will need to provide them with the exact prototype or working sample that you want to produce. However, do not expect these Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers to develop working prototypes for you or figure out how your invention works.
Licensing inventions for royalties
It will be helpful to develop some samples of prototype if you want to license your invention for royalties. Since this process can be very expensive, it is not often necessary to develop a fully functioning sample. A more cost-effective solution is a virtual prototype, however, this depends on the invention involved.
As a computer-generated, animated model, a virtual prototype can be rotated on-screen and will enable you to get your invention showcased to prospective companies. This is all you need to possibly license your invention and attract interest in it. Although even after a virtual prototype has been presented, a company may still ask to see a tangible prototype which is expected to raise their interest in your invention. However, you could request that the company carry out evaluations with without the prototype.