From idea to invention
There are many different methods used by professional inventors designed to assist them through the invention process. Below, I will attempt to illustrate how the process should basically go from my personal experiences.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a patent lawyer or patent agent, I am an inventor. This is not legal advice and should not be constituted as such.
The first two things you can do for yourself are as follows:
Don’t be caught unaware and unprepared. Educate yourself by reading books, attending conventions and networking with other inventors to learn all you can about the entire invention process.
Do not trust promoters on invention and invention geared advertisements on the television. 99% of these are fraudulent and will cost you time, effort and a lot of money. Keeping yourself educated will help prevent you from being taken advantage of by con artists.
For a free reference and resource site, do not hesitate to subscribe to the InventNET forums, where you can connect with other inventors and find information that is vital to your line of work. This is an email based discussion group where inventors can receive quality answers to many questions. Included among these may be answers to questions regarding the patenting process, the idea creation process, how to sell or license an invention and questions on problems you encounter while working on your own invention.
If you have questions about patenting and invention, don’t forget to check the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the information you are looking for. As all US patents are required to be registered with the USPTO, you may be able to find the answers you are looking for.
If you have an idea that you think is creative and new, you can follow the steps below in order to develop your idea.
1: Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Writing down all of the information you can on your idea is the first stage in creating an invention. This may require research, to ensure that you have the proper calculations behind your project written down. It is important to make sure you have as much detail as can possibly have for future stages of the project.
2: The next thing you need to do is explore the current markets for information on similar technologies. If your project will eventually become a consumer product, go to stores that would be likely to sell such products and look for things that are similar. Speak with the managers of each store to find out their opinions on your product, use the Internet to find more information regarding users, manufacturers and distributors of similar products. Contact these companies to find out specifications such as price and product information. You may need to visit these companies in person to discuss more in depth the requirements your product would have to meet to have a place in the current market.
3: After you have gathered all of the information you can, it is time for you to compare your invention with that information. You should be studying the novelty of the item, the marketing potentials, usefulness, productivity, price, and ease of manufacturing to begin with. This information will be able to help you form a firm foundation on what your product needs to really do. This may create some alterations to your original design, but it may be necessary in order to sell the product. It is suggested that you now go out and talk with potential users of your product and discover their opinions on it.
4: Now is the time where you must decide whether this project is worth patenting or not. This is a difficult decision to make, as you have to calculate the probability that this project will be a success. As marketing your product can cost up to 90% of all of your resources you put into it, you have to be very sure the risk is worth it.
REMEMBER: Only two percent of all patented items are successfully marketed. If your product looks risky, drop it and take on another one that will have a higher chance of success. This will save you a lot of time and effort.
When you are seeking to obtain a patent, there are several steps you will have to go through. The first is performing a patent search on the type of invention you plan on creating. A patent lawyer or patent agent basis his or her patentability opinion on a patent search. This search is used to determine whether someone has patented an invention similar to yours, which may have anticipated your invention. If this is the case, a patent examiner would have to reject the patent. This allows you to save you time and money, should a patent already exist for your idea.
Making certain that a patent doesn’t already exist that covers the same invention you are attempting to create can be done with the patent search. The first thing you will need to do in this case is perform a Classifications search. This is a part of a Preliminary search, which is free at the USPTO website. Doing this will save you money, as if your product is shown to not be a new, novel idea, then you won’t waste your time or resources working on something you cannot receive a patent for.
If you require further information on patent searches, you may read this Patent Search Tutorial.
In addition to doing your own search, you should also have one done professional. These experts are trained in doing searches for patents of various Classifications, which means you will have a definite answer on how good your chances are of receiving a patent. In general, patent searching experts will cost you $400-$800. This includes his or her patentability opinion. As the patent process does cost several thousand dollars, this is a bad place to make a mistake.
5. Besides having technological knowledge, there are two aspects you must keep in mind before registering a patent. This process takes time and money. It will take you over 16 months to get your patent in most cases, sometimes up to as much as over two years. Expect to pay, at a minimum, of at least one thousand dollars. Most patents cost more than that, however. This is strictly dependent on what type of patent you are applying for.
6. If you have enough funds on hand, this would be an excellent time to find a patent attorney or agent to assist you through the rest of the process. Your choice should be determined by several factors. The first is to find a lawyer or agent that does not charge you for the initial visit. They must also charge a flat fee for their services. You can expect to have to pay between $2,500-$10,000. This agent or lawyer should be PTO registered.
7. If you do not have the funds required to hire a proper registered patent lawyer or agent, you may patent your invention on your own. This is a cheaper alternative. However, this can be a frustrating process. While it is not impossible, it is not easy, either.
There is now an on line patent application form available from the USPTO’s website.
8. If you are not comfortable with the final draft of your patent application, you may hire a patent agent or lawyer to proof read the draft for $500-$1,000.
9. If you have neither the time nor the money for the fees required to apply for a patent, you may consider going into partnership with an investor or another inventor, with the agreement that you will be sharing future royalties on the invention.
10. If you disclose the information about your invention to anyone before you have applied for a patent, you may not be eligible for a patent in most countries. The United States is one of the few exceptions to this rule, as they have a one year grace period in which you may apply for an application. You may, however, disclose the information on your patent prior to applying if you have had the viewer sign a non-disclosure agreement. This will not start the one year period in the United States, nor will it cause your invention to be inapplicable elsewhere.
11. A program called the Provisional Patent Application (PPA) helps you establish a priority right for your invention. This is an inexpensive way to show others that you have a patent pending. At a cost of $100, it is well worth the investment. You will have one year after you apply for this program to file a proper patent application.
IMPORTANT: This is not a patent and the information you send will not be examined, approved or denied by the USPTO. The information you provide will be filled and establish priority date for your invention only if you file a standard (real) patent application within 12 months.
To participate in this program you have to send a copy of the description of your invention to the United States Patent and Trademark Offices. You must be certain to include a clear and complete explanation of the manner, process and use of the invention in sufficient detail where a person with ordinary education in that field of study can reproduce and use this invention. The PPA should include sketches or drawings of your invention. The description of this item should match the one you send in with your real patent application or you will not be applicable for priority rights. To learn more about the PPA, you should go to the USPTO website and read the information on the pages you find there. This will give you a more precise and accurate description of the process required to make use of this program. Should you decide to file an application in this program, you can download and use software will all the requirements you need to make the process very simple.
For more information on the patent process, you can buy books that will help describe the process in further detail. One such book is Patent it Yourself by David Pressman. Reading these books will give you access to information on how to describe your invention, and how drawings and claims are created. You will also find information on why you can place “Patent Pending” on inventions after you have filed your patent application.
Marketing your Inventions
You have established by now that your invention is unique and marketable. Now is the time where you make a plan for making money with your invention. You have two primary decisions you can make. First, you can sell or license your invention to others. Second, you can start your own business based on your invention.
There are many books that you can buy that will help you understand how to market your invention. These include, but are not limited to The Inventor’s Bible by Ron Docie, Marketing Your Invention by Thomas E. Mosley, Stand Alone, Inventor! by Robert G. Merrick, and Bringing Your Product to Market by Don Debelak.
Marketing your invention should start immediately after you have filed a patent application. Due to the time and effort involved in selling or licensing an invention, you should use every minute you have. This is something you can do by yourself. You may also choose to find someone else to do this for you. However, you should never pay any money up front to anyone. If they believe your invention has potential, they will do the marketing for a percentage of future royalties. This is where you want to make a list of manufacturers and potential users of your product. Contact the company managers and present yourself as a product developer and arrange a meeting. Do not introduce yourself as an inventor, in this case.
At this phase, you do not want to send any written presentations of your invention without a signed NDA, or Non-disclosure agreement.
Make a prototype that will show and demonstrate your invention’s performances better than words. Now is the time you want to participate at trade shows and inventing shows to display and show of your invention. You will also want to learn how to finance your own business based on your invention. Look for partners and venture capital to finance your new business.
At a very last resort, contact a contingent-fee invention broker to sell or license your invention to manufacturers.
The most important thing you should keep in mind is that you should not contact or use any invention submission company that charges you money in advance. As an Inventor, you need to be aware of invention scams, as they are out there waiting to take advantage of you. Do not market your invention until it is protected.
The subject of Invention and patenting is a vast one, and it is not my intention to present it here in complete form. Consider this short presentation as a starting point in your research.