When an inventor has an idea for a marvelous new product, it's natural for them to want to share it with the world. However, it isn't a wise idea to simply start telling others about the
innovation. It's better to follow the accepted invention process.
The invention process is relatively fluid. Inventors may find that certain steps blur into others. Still, it's best to proceed with caution and have an intellectual property attorney complete all due diligence so that there is a better opportunity to capitalize on the invention. Inventors can follow these steps in the invention process to better ensure that their product is marketed to the public.
1. Keep Records
It's essential for inventors to document everything about their innovation from the earliest stages. Many people keep an inventor's notebook, which is a simple bound notebook that has consecutively numbered pages. These pages cannot be removed and reinserted. This ensures that the inventor did not tamper with the order of the pages. Each notebook entry is dated, and it's valuable to have a witness sign the entries. This demonstrates when and how each innovation was achieved, which may be important during the patenting portion of the invention process. Recent developments in the patent system may have made this less critical, but it is important nonetheless.
The inventor's notebook includes information regarding what the invention is, how it works and any other pertinent details. Being vigilant about using this notebook will make the rest of the invention process easier.
2. Research the Idea
Some inventors complete an online search for any product that seems similar to theirs. This can be helpful as it may reveal that an idea has already been thought of, patented and marketed, which prevents the inventor from wasting more time on the idea. If a quick search shows that the idea may be novel, it's time to contact a patent attorney.
3. Perform a Patent Search
Ask the intellectual property attorney to perform a search for the invention in the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This search will provide valuable information about whether or not it is worth pursuing the invention into the prototype phase. Ensure the attorney does more than a Google search. A quality search is worth it weight in gold.
4. Build a Prototype
A prototype can be an enormously important part of the invention process. Through building it, many inventors discover additional innovations or weak points that need to be addressed. It's can be essential to manufacture or at least have a computer model constructed before filing a patent application so that the potential patent is as comprehensive and accurate as possible. Some intellectual property firms have engineers that will help with the development of your invention.
5. Meet with a Patent Attorney
If by this time you haven't met with an attorney, inventors should do so now. Inventors should bring their journal, prototype, and any other descriptive information to the meeting so the attorney can fully understand the novelty and utility of the invention. The patent attorney and inventor will discuss the invention so that the patent attorney can write a patent that adequately protects the invention and prevents others from stealing the inventor's idea. This is an important part of the invention process since a well written patent can go a long way toward protecting the inventor's rights and their ability to make money from their invention.
6. Take the Product to Market
Once the product is patent pending, it's time to figure out whether it makes sense for the inventor to manufacture and market the product themselves or if it's better to license the idea to a company. Either one of these options can be lucrative, but they can also have drawbacks. Manufacturing and marketing a product can be enormously expensive. However, the inventor gets to keep most of the profits for themselves. Licensing an invention eliminates a great deal of financial risk, but inventors get only a portion of the profits. Deciding which route to use is the final step toward introducing a product.
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