Do you have a new invention idea, but are lost in a sea of information on the web? Developing a new product can be an arduous task, and often overwhelms new inventors before they see any returns on their investment.
Just finding the right advice for pursuing an invention idea is an undertaking. That is why we compiled this list of pointers to help you avoid common pitfalls experienced by inventors and help you take the right steps to succeed.
We hope this article helps your on your invention journey, if you have any questions please send us an email or ask us in our inventor’s forum! For more information on the invention and patent process, please visit our articles page!
1. Learn the Business
Like any new business venture (yes inventing is a business) you need to educate yourself on the industry and learn the trade before you start spending money. Research is an essential part of every step of the invention and patent process. It is important to learn every step you will need to take from conception to collecting royalty payments before you begin. This is not to say you need to know how to make a prototype or do you own patent search, but rather you need to know the necessary steps to bringing a product to market. This will help you avoid scams and wasting your money on products that will not really help you progress with your idea.
2. Research your Idea
This may be obvious to most, but you would be surprised at how many inventors get excited about a great idea and assume that because they thought of it, the idea does not exist elsewhere. Many times a simple google search or a trip to your local Walmart may prove otherwise. Do not be discouraged if you do find your idea already on the market, you may have a modification or an approach that is not covered by patents held by the manufacturer. If your search does reveal that the invention is out there, at least you did not lose any money on the idea. Also remember if you had one great idea that is in stores, you might have another tomorrow.
Write down everything concerning your idea. Keep an “Inventor’s Notebook” or journal that records the conception and development of your idea. Use bound notebooks, make frequent entries and date each one. This log may help you in litigation if your invention’s origins ever come into question.
4. Non-Disclosure Agreements
There will be a point in the development progress where you will need to employ others to help you. If this occurs before you have proper legal protection, always obtain a signed (preferably notarized) non-disclosure agreement or NDA. This document will prevent the contracted party from stealing your idea or modifying it to pass it off as their own.
5. Shop around
There is no such thing as a cheap patent, but there is no reason to overpay for the same quality you will get elsewhere. We don’t recommend making decisions based solely on price, but narrow your options down to the best providers, then select the affordable solution. Remember, the most expensive attorney or prototype manufacturer is not always the best one.
6. Develop your Brand
Many inventors come up with a great idea and think that the concept alone is enough to get it on the shelves. In some cases this will work, but a great name or brand image can exponentially increase your chances for success. If you create a product, something that salesmen and manufacturers can get excited about, you will get much better response and feedback. Don’t just call your idea “EZ widget“. Giving your invention a catchy name will usually help you in the development process too. A great name and image for your product can inspire you to make new design decisions or improvements to include a broader range of markets.
7. Iron Hide
As you have probably learned already, the invention process is a turbulent roller coaster ride of emotions. There are euphoric highs when everything is going right and of course low points when you feel the project is a hopeless dead end. It takes an iron will to deflect criticisms from friends and family and continue to develop your idea. One thing that I can tell you after years in the innovation industry, no one knows what products are going to make it. I know of many seemingly ridiculous products that have received lucrative licensing agreements (shake weight anyone?), so as cheesy as it sounds, don’t give up!
8. Be Prepared
Before you start marketing your invention to others, take the time to properly develop your tools for doing so. Create a customized “pitch” targeting your potential investors or manufacturers. Have printed brochures, business cards, make a webpage they can visit, have projected financial information and a business plan on hand. You can also create a prototype, in some case a rapid prototype can effectively convey your idea without breaking the bank. Have a well rounded presentation that gives your audience a clear, concise idea on what your invention does, how it does it, and the consumer appeal for your product.
9. Funding your Invention
Having enough capital to bring a new product to market is a common hurdle for inventors. Many individual inventors simply do not have the personal assets to see their idea to the end, which results in high abandonment rates. One option you can take is to bring on investors. This is not without a price though, inventing is a risky venture and investors know this. It can either pay enormous returns, or you can lose 100% of your investment. So you will often have to relinquish more control over your idea than you want in order to entice others to give you even a small amount of money.
10. Don’t Be Greedy
This tip coincides with number 9, I have seen inventors get all the way to a licensing agreement and turn down the contract because of insufficient royalty terms. Remember MOST invention ideas do not make it past the patent office. In most cases, if you have a company that is interested in producing your product, take the money and run! Pocket the cash and move on to the next idea. Unless you have a truly innovative idea that companies are beating down your door for, you will rarely profit by holding out for a better contract.