Every product out on the market today started as a dream idea in someone's head. From a mobile device to a software platform or a kitchen gadget, most items you can purchase came to life through the same process.
The road from concept to finished product can be a long one, and those who travel it often face numerous obstacles and setbacks. But armed with the right information and resources, you can put yourself on the path to bringing your invention to market. Here's what you need to know to get started.
Turning your idea into a reality is a bit more complicated than just handing your design over to a manufacturer or developer and waiting for the profits to roll in. We published an article about steps to get your product into the market. Below is the summary.
Step 1: Document It Simply having an "idea" is worthless, you need to have proof of when you came up with the invention ideas. Write down everything you can think of that relates to your idea, from what it is and how it works to how you'll make and market it. Add some sketch or image to show how you imagine it. This could be very useful in patenting or developing your product later.
Step 2: Research It
You will need to research your idea from a legal and business standpoint. Sure, your brother thinks your idea is a great idea, but that doesn't mean your neighbour would buy one. Before you invest too much time and money into your dream idea, do some preliminary research on your target market. Is this something people will actually buy? Once you know there's a market, make sure your product can be manufactured and distributed at a low enough cost so that your retail price is reasonable. You can determine these costs by comparing those of similar products currently on the market. This will also help you size up your competition -- which you will have, no matter how unique you think your idea is.
Step 3: Make a Prototype and Develop It
A prototype is a model of your idea that puts into practice all of the things you have written as your product definition. This will demonstrate the design of your product when you present it to potential investors and licensees. Do not file a patent before you have made a prototype. You will almost always discover a flaw in your original design or think of a new feature you would like to add. If you patent your idea before you work out these kinks, it will be too late to include them in the patent and you will risk losing the patent rights of the new design to someone else.
Here are some general rules of thumb when prototyping your dream idea:
Begin with a drawing. Before you begin the prototyping phase, sketch out all of your ideas.
Create a concept mockup out of any material that will allow you to create a 3D model of your design.
Once you're satisfied with the mockup, create a full-working model of your idea.
Step 4: File a Patent
Now that you have all of the kinks worked out of your design, it's finally time to file a patent. There are two main patents you will have to choose from: a utility patent (for new processes or machines) or a design patent (for manufacturing new, nonobvious ornamental designs).
Follow these steps in choosing the best patent professional:
Do your homework. Have your documents, prototype and notes with you. This will save them time, and you, money. This will also help persuade them to work with you.
Make sure they are registered agents.
Ask them what their technical background is. If your invention is electronic, find a patent professional who is also an electrical engineer.
Discuss fees. Keep your focus on smaller patent firms. They are less expensive and will work more closely with you. Agree to the estimate
Step 5: Market Your Invention
Now it's time to figure out how you're going to bring your product to market. Create a business plan: How will you get the money? Where will you manufacture the product? How will you sell it? Now is a good time to decide if you will manufacture and sell the product yourself, or license it for sale through another company. When you license your product you will probably only receive two percent to five percent in royalty fees. This often scares away inventors who feel they deserve more. But consider the upside: You will not have the financial burden associated with maintaining a business. This could end up making you more money in the long run.