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.

11 New Judges Added to Patent Appeals Board

united states patentThe United States Patent & Trademark Offices (USPTO) has just added eleven new judges to it’s Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. The appointment of these new judges is a result of the America Invents Act passed last year, an initiative by the U.S. government to expedite the patent process for new ideas and technology.

The new judges below took the oath of office on June 8th, 2012 at the USPTO office in Alexandria, Va.

  • Rama Elluru
  • John Evans
  • Larry Hume
  • Ulrike Jenks
  • Hyun Jung
  • Brett Martin
  • John Martin
  • Brian McNamara
  • Annette Reimers
  • Sheridan Snedden
  • Michael Strauss

Congratulations to the newest members of the USPTO team! These new team members will contribute to reducing the amount of time required for post pendancy litigation.

2012 Inventor’s Hall of Fame Inductees

Ten inventors joined the ranks of a select few in the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in an Induction ceremony sponsored by the United States Patent & Trademark Office this year.  The annual event held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The National Portrait gallery welcomed seven living inventors and three posthumously.  This year’s inductees were;

Akira Endo – Discovered mevastatin (a huge breakthrough in drugs treating high cholesterol).

Dennis Gabor – Gabor passed away in 1979, however his research in electron optics let to the invention of holography which has several modern day applications.

Steve Jobs – With a number of innovations under his belt, Jobs is recognized as a major contributor to modern technology and other industries.

Barbara Liskov – An MIT professor, Barbara has proven herself an innovator by designing CLU and Argus (computer programming languages used that compliment other major languages such as Java and C++).

C. Kumar N. Patel –  Mr. Patel invented the carbon dioxide laser which has broad applications in medical, industrial and military fields.

Lubomyr Romankiw and David Thompson – They developed  usable magnetic thin film storage heads, increasing the capacity of storage drives and reducing infrastructure costs.

Gary Starkweather – Gary invented the laser printer, a revolutionary product that was key to Xerox’s early success.

Maria Telkes – Maria passed away in 1995, but  contributed heavily to early developments in solar energy use.

Alejandro Zaffaroni – A major player in the biotechnology field, Alejandro developed new controlled delivery methods for medications.  Most notable is his concept for transdermal patches.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the hall of fame.

*The National Inventors Hall of Fame annually accepts nominations for men and women whose work has changed society and improved the quality of life.  The candidate’s invention must be covered by a United States patent, and the work must have had a major impact on society, the public welfare, and the progress of science and the useful arts.


Fast Trademark Pendancy is Here to Stay!

April has marked a record for the U.S.P.T.O. in trademark pendancy! For the past five years the office has held to it’s goal on 2.5-3.5 months from filing to pendancy. This is mostly a result of a new streamlined system of filing electronically, but also because registration levels remain at low levels.

USPTO Continues Hiring Spree

United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos has announced that the USPTO will continue with it’s plans to expand the office’s workforce in 2012.  The USPTO is expected to add 1,500 new patent examiners this year in addition to 3 new senior level management positions.

The new jobs are part of the America Invents Act and the USPTO’s  “Strategic Plan” to become more efficient and reduce it’s current backlog.  Kappo’s plans to significantly reduce the time taken for first actions, the current goal is ten months.

Learn from the Best 2011 Inventions

2011-Year-In-ReviewSome of the best 2011 inventions are profiled in Time Magazine’s annual invention issue. One thing that many of these inventions share in common is a focus on perfecting the retail product that ends up in the hands of consumers. It is less important to be the creator of a new product idea than it is to make the final product as user friendly and cost effective as possible. Steve Jobs epitomizes this new paradigm for inventors, because he was not the first to come up with all the inventions that he is credited.

However, Jobs’ claim to fame is that he perfected the personal computer, iOS devices and digital animation to best fit with consumer demands. The advice that inventors can take away from success stories like Jobs is that it is far better to be the best than to be the first.

Popular Science is another magazine which publishes a top 10 list of 2011 inventions. For the last 5 years, the magazine has run an Invention Awards segment which highlights the most innovative contraptions to emerge from garages across the country. Some of these inventions help to save the earth, while others treat the sick. Some inventions are designed for entertainment purposes only.

Regardless of their purpose, these brilliant inventions are sure to inspire other inventors to dream big. For example, one of the top inventions for 2011 is a pen like device which can perform health screens for prenatal illnesses. This device costs less than a penny, so it is ideal for health care in poor regions. Another innovative device uses the exhaust from a boat to treat onboard waste.

Some 2011 inventions combine two popular products into a single package. The Google Prius is a perfect example of this, as the search engine giant joins forces with auto maker Toyota to offer what some describe as “motorized sofas on wheels.” These special edition Prius sedans do not require a driver behind the wheel, but they are similar to a standard Prius in almost every other way.

The cars feature a special sensor which acts like an eye for the vehicle. This cylinder shaped sensor is attached to the car roof and uses AI software to sense objects close to the car. The AI software can also make decisions of human drivers but actually reduce errors and thus prevent accidents.

Tips on How to Invent Something

inventions logoTips on how to invent something innovative can help you come up with new ideas to solve every day problems. For example, the founder of the internet Tim Berners was originally working on resolving a technical problem. He ended up inventing a way for computers to communicate with one another using HTML code. Anyone can learn the key methods behind the invention process by starting with the first step, which is preparation.

It often helps to find a problem which needs to be solved. If you already have a clear issue to focus on, this part is easy. You may choose to invent something for a specific hobby you enjoy or something which will make your life easier on a daily basis. New inventions can either be adaptive, which means they improve on an existing design, or totally innovate by taking a completely new approach to solving a problem.

For many people, the question is how to invent something that can make you money. The idea is very appealing, but even those inventors with fabulous ideas for new products may not know how to proceed with turning these ideas into a marketable product. The first thing to do with your great idea is some online research to determine if it’s already been invented by someone else.

If not, then you should also perform a UP Patent information search to find out if anyone has ever tried to patent a similar invention. If there is no patent on your idea, you may choose to work with a company that can help you market the idea to manufacturers who can turn it into a real product.

Figuring out how to invent something useful can pay off in a number of ways. For example, employees who are eager for a promotion will be much more likely to get it if they invent something that helps their company make more money or operate more efficiently. Those who are self employed may benefit by inventing something which helps them run their own business more efficiently. If they can create a totally new product with no competition, it can be a major breakthrough for their business as well.

Those who dream of building a business empire can build it based on world class products they invent. Those who dream of retiring with a steady income stream will also benefit from royalty checks coming in each month from their inventions.

Brainstorm Creative Invention Ideas

Inventors know that great inventions start from an idea in one’s imagination. Fortunately, some tips can help anyone stimulate their imagination to brainstorm some creative invention ideas.

The first tip is to write a particular topic word or phrase that you want to brainstorm about at the top of your paper, and then set a timer for your brainstorming session. You should then continue to write words and phrases related to that topic in a list on the page until the timer runs out.

The goal of this exercise is to never stop writing while the timer is going, even if that requires that you write down something silly. The reason for this is that if you stop writing, you will likely interrupt the creative flow of ideas.

Focusing on a single topic in this way will force you to examine it in great detail. Try to take an exhaustive look at the topic until you cannot break it down into any further detail.

Free writing is one of the best techniques for inspiring invention creativity. This brainstorming idea involves writing about a topic without censoring yourself. In the case of an inventor who is trying to come up with a creative new idea for a dog toy, for example, you should begin to write about that topic until the point you get stuck. At this point you must continue writing even if you simply write that you are out of ideas.

By continuing to do this for an extended period of time, new streams of ideas can be opened up which otherwise may have been curtailed before they were allowed to develop. At its core, the technique encourages the flow of one’s imagination to “invent” these new ideas. Many inventors who have tried this strategy have found that it allowed them to come up with ideas they otherwise may not have thought of.

Beating the Invention Competition

When it comes to beating the inventing competition, you will always have to face this issue regardless of which industry your product is in. Even if you have invented a revolutionary new product like a microwave oven, for example, your competition would still be from the traditional cooking methods like hot plates, grills and ovens.

Once you come up with a new invention idea, you should investigate the market to find out who manufactures competing products. Conduct an evaluation to determine how different your invention is from these other products and begin to compile a list of all the advantages and disadvantages of your product in comparison to competing products. This process will allow you to learn a lot from your competitors while also envisioning how your product can be distinguished from competing products.

Despite the challenges you will face against your competition, it can actually be a positive thing as it forces you to be efficient and innovative with your invention ideas. Research shows that competing inventions can foster accelerated innovation within a given industry. In recent years, this dynamic has become more prominent in the US as companies are turning to innovation to stay relevant to their customers and differentiate their products from competitors. The difficult economy has forced even more innovation to cut costs and compete more efficiently in a shrinking market.

When compared to similar research following previous recessions, the results this time are quite different. Since companies have cut costs to the bone, they are now turning to innovation as a way to improve their execution and be more competitive. Innovation ranks as the top growth strategy for global organizations and small businesses alike in today’s difficult environment. Investment in IT and clean technologies and productivity enhancing innovations rank as high priorities for many large companies today, and your next invention could fall under such a niche.

Can You Patent a Idea?

It is possible to patent a idea on your own and save a lot of money in the process. Filing an electronic patent application on your own without the assistance of a patent attorney can cut out the costly legal fees so you will only have to pay for the application fees that are required.

The disadvantage of filing a patent yourself is that you may take longer time than a patent specialist, and you may leave out important requirements to fully protect your idea.

The first step in filing for a patent application online is to download and fill out the patent application. You can select from a Utility Patent application, a Design Patent application or a Plant Patent application.

Utility and design patents cover manufactured articles while plant patents cover types of plants which are engineered. You should explain your idea on the application according to guidelines set out in Title 35, Section 112 of the United States Code, and also include illustrations of your idea if these will improve the explanation of it.

Technically speaking, you cannot actually patent ideas but only actual inventions. This means that if you have a great idea for an invention, you will need to implement that idea in the form of a functional object or design which can then be patented. Products, compositions, processes, manufactured articles, machines and other tangible inventions are eligible for patents, while abstract ideas and theories on their own are not.

You will need to work hard in order to turn your idea into a product, and if you are successful then you will be able to patent it.

You should do everything possible to keep your idea a secret while you go through this process, since ideas can be easily stolen. If you do want to share your idea with anyone else before filing a patent application and obtaining a priority date, you should have them sign a confidentiality agreement.