Guidance for Inventors
We receive numerous calls from people who have thought of
an idea for a product and want to know what to do next.
Although you will understandably be keen to protect your
idea, the establishment of intellectual property can be costly, and there are
things you can do to make sure you are not wasting your money.
Most ideas fail because they have not been researched or
because the inventor lacks sufficient funds or development facilities.
Your chances of selling an "idea" are pretty small. Most
companies have no shortage of ideas for possible research and development.
On the other hand, novel products with good market potential are quite
Here are ten steps to follow:
1. Keep it confidential
If you disclose your idea too early you are in danger of giving it away.
Public disclosure will destroy any chance of protecting it, but don't be
paranoid. Discussing an idea with a family member, a patent agent, an accountant
or your bank manager are not "public disclosures", but offering the
idea to a manufacturer, publishing it in the press or putting it on display in a
public place are definitely out. If you must disclose your invention to anyone
who does not owe you a duty of confidentiality get then to sign a
confidentiality undertaking. Here is a
simple document which you can download.
2. Check whether it is really new
Are there are any similar products on the internet? Look at relevant trade
publications and catalogues. You could pay a patent attorney to conduct a
novelty assessment. Although this is not cheap it could save you time and
money re-inventing the wheel.
TIP: You can
conduct patent searches on the Esp@cenet
3. Research your market
How many people are likely to buy it? High volume low price products might
produce a good profit. Low volume products might still have potential but
they would probably need a high profit margin to be viable. What price will the
4. Working model
You need to make sure that your idea will actually achieve what you want.
This needn't be too elaborate, but if you can't make it work you might be
wasting your time.
5. Prepare drawings and notes
Although patent attorneys are very skilled at putting an inventive concept into
words they are required to describe at least one practical embodiment in some
detail. Good clear drawings are usually essential, although they need not
necessarily be of draughtsman quality. Check out the "Patents" link on
6. Do you have a name for it?
If you have thought of a good name you can ask your patent
agent about registering it as a trade mark. Check out the "Trade Marks"
link on the left.
7. Protect it
You should now be in a position to consult a patent attorney about protecting
your intellectual property. Once any patent or design applications have
been filed you are free to disclose the idea to the general public.
8. Produce a prototype
At this stage it is useful to see a professional design consultant. Your
model might have proved that the idea works in principle, but can it be
manufactured at an acceptable price? Design consultants will be able to
refine the design and iron out any bugs, remove potential manufacturing snags
and maybe reduce the manufacturing cost. Once you know how the product
will be made you can update your patent or design application if necessary, and
work out detailed manufacturing costs.
9. Field Testing
Consider giving away free samples for people to try out. If you can find a
well known personality or an acknowledged expert who is prepared to endorse the
product this will greatly increase its credibility. They might also flag
up any practical problems that you have not considered previously.
10. Approach potential manufacturers
Armed with a neat working prototype, market reports, detailed costings and
endorsements you can now contact potential manufacturers without fear of wasting
their time. There is no guarantee that
anyone will want to buy your package, but at least you will have given yourself
the best chance of getting your idea to market.
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© Craske & Co., 2006
Last updated: 27 December 2010