I have an invention idea; where do I start?

Do you have the next greatest product idea? Is your product new or is it an improvement on an existing product? This could be a very exciting time for you, but you can’t just assume that your invention is going to work; you first need to do some extensive research and documenting before you find investors or continue with your inventing process. Following are the basic steps you need to take to develop an idea into a marketable product.

Market Research

The first thing you need to do in your inventing process is to conduct a little market research. You want to find out whether there are any other products on the market that are similar to your idea. Visit department stores, specialty shops, electronic stores and search online for products that meet the specifications of your idea. Are these different from your idea? Does your idea improve on an existing product? Is the cost of your product competitive with other similar products? How well do these similar products sell? These are all questions you must answer before you continue with your invention.

Patent Research

If you still find that your idea could be the next greatest product, then you will want to conduct a patent search to see if there is an existing patent held by someone else on an idea or product similar to the one you have in mind. Go to the U.S Patent and Trademark Office website and search the database using keywords that represent your idea.

If your invention is an improvement or a change of use on an existing product then you can continue with your inventing process. At this stage in the game, you are not necessarily ready to file a patent for your invention, but you want to make sure you aren’t infringing on an existing patent with your idea. This is why conducting a patent research at the beginning of your invention process is so important.


Once you know your basic idea is not patented or that it can be an improvement on an existing product, you need to fully develop your idea, and documentation is critical. You need to add all the details, specify the purpose of your invention, explain the idea and even have basic sketches of your idea.

Basic Prototype

A prototype or model of your idea is essential. When first developing your idea, you don’t need a working prototype or even a beautiful one, but you should put together a rough prototype made of modeling clay or even paper. Basically, you want something to show a product designer who will help you make technical drawings for your invention. The initial prototype offers a couple of advantages. First, it allows you to see a physical representation of your idea, and secondly, it enables you to refine your idea as you progress through the invention process.

The Product Designer

Once you have your specifications and a basic handmade or molded prototype you are ready to find a product designer that can bring your idea to life. Given your documentation a designer will make professional drawings, and in many cases, a computer 3-D model of your invention. Most inventors believe hiring a product designer too expensive a process. However, you can find freelance designers willing to take on projects of this nature by looking online.


Once you have professional drawings and a 3-D computer model of your invention, you can start to look for investors for your product. However, to get investors to consider your idea as one with potential for future revenue you must convince them that your invention is a good one. To do this you may want to first have a working prototype of your invention. At any rate, to find the funding for your invention, it’s essential that you network with other inventors (find out how they did it) and join local inventors groups. You can also look for funding by applying for grants, loans or even finding a government program that will help you accomplish your goals. You may also want to consider venture capital, which is money from enterprises or corporations that offer investment capital in exchange for revenue profits.

The Working Prototype

As mentioned before, you don’t need a working prototype to find investors for your invention idea, but inventors with a working prototype often do better with funding options. Once you have the specifications and 3-D drawing of the product, you can have a prototype made. There are manufacturing companies that specialize in prototype manufacturing. Often, the product designer you used can help you find a prototype manufacturer. However, you can also search for one through other agencies like a local inventor’s group, online or even the Yellow Pages can help find the right manufacturer.

Once you know your invention works, and you find funding, by either funding it yourself or through investment capital, you are ready to patent your product. By seeking a patent you protect your invention from infringement; meaning other manufacturers cannot copy your idea and market it themselves. A design patent protects your invention for 14 years from the moment it is authorized, meaning that during that time, no other manufacturer can make a product exactly like yours.