Patents, Prototypes, Manufacturing, and Marketing New Inventions
I Have A Great New Invention Idea, What Should I Do?
There is of course no single answer as to where to begin. If you want to bring a great idea into reality then you will want to know if there is a demand or market for your invention, can it be protected, is it really new, can it be manufactured, etc. You could start by doing a marketing study which might be as simple as asking your friends it they would want one.
Another approach would be to first find out if it is patentable or even if it has been patented by someone else already... a fairly frequent occurrence. 90% of all new inventions granted patents never make it to the marketplace for one reason or another.
There are many different types of people, but everyone has good and even great ideas. Perhaps the "engineering" type person may be more inclined to build a prototype and experiment with a great invention idea, or perhaps a "entrepreneur" type personality would grab the idea and run with it.
Do something with your idea... don't take it to the grave with you!
If you are like most people you simply won't do anything with it. Bringing a great invention idea to market is typically a time consuming expensive and very risky proposition. I imagine most folks don't even have any idea of where to start or what to do.
In my opinion a good first step is to do a patent search online. It's free and you can learn a great deal of information by doing one. You might discover your invention has already been invented and that will save you a lot of wasted time and money. You might have to just move on.
Discovering patents related to your invention can often inspire you to make more improvements in your original idea. You might come up with important improvements after seeing how others have tried to solve the same problem. By getting familiar with other patents related to yours you will be able to develop a stronger patent application.
If your invention is patentable then you will have more options when trying to make some money off of the idea, and even if it turns out to not be patentable you will have been able to use the term "patent pending" for a couple of years. It will make it easier to license or sell it to a large corporation. A large corporation or company will be much more likely to sit down with you and discuss a deal if you have a patent or even patent pending than if you just have an unprotected idea.
Patents cost money
A patent attorney will typically charge anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 for a simple utility patent depending on the complexity. If you want to go it alone it won't cost much, but it will take up a good deal of your time.
Whether or not to obtain a patent should probably depend heavily on how strong a patent you can get. A good strong patent will provide you with that virtual monopoly for many years, where a weak patent really won't do you much good. It may however, be good for your ego to have a patent in your name.
There is no substitute for a good thorough patent search done by a professional patent searcher unless you are experienced and or determined and you either live near a patent library or can visit one etc. But you can do a preliminary search yourself online with Google's patent search engine and/or the USPTO's search engine.
Learn the US patent office's classification system
The USPTO uses a classification system for patents that groups patents into classes and subclasses. If you wish to search at the USPTO you should familiarize yourself with the patent classification system. Go to the USPTO website and in the "site index" look up "Manual of Patent Classification". Study up on the classification system and learn how it works.
Even if you use the Google search engine it will benefit you greatly if you first learn the classification system the USPTO uses for patents. For instance, when searching using keywords on Google's patent search engine, if you've invented an asparagus harvester you should search under not only "asparagus harvester", but also "vegetable harvester", "picking machine", and other terms that could well have similarities to your invention. If your asparagus picker has an improved conveyor as part of if you would want to search patents related to conveyors, material handling, and the like.
If you are really serious about getting a patent for your invention then I highly recommend you get a book on the subject. There are a number of good books for inventors. One of my favorites is "How to Patent Your Invention" from Nolo Press by David Pressman. It pretty much covers everything you need to know to patent your idea, and even covers other protection methods like trade marks, trade secrets, and other intellectual property rights. It also provides you with a comprehensive guide to doing patent searches both online and off. It covers everything.
Your can buy it now at Amazon.com
Online patent searching has limitations
A major problem with doing an online search is that both the USPTO and Google's patent search engine only go back as far as 1976. Unless your new invention is very high tech and you are sure there are no related patents previous to 1976 you will still want to search both the older US patents and foreign patents if you pursue obtaining a patent.
Now go start learning about the USPTO patent classifications.
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