10 Tips For Inventors
You don't need to possess the genius of Alexander Miles or Madam C.J. Walker to consider yourself an inventor. Nowadays, anyone with a great concept and determination can create an outstanding product or a tool that saves lives.
But some questions might arise, such as:
"What's the next step once you've developed a top-notch invention?"
“How do I protect my business idea?"
“What is Intellectual Property?"
"Should I obtain a patent?"
Don't worry — FindLaw offers ten tips for small businesses, startups, inventors, and entrepreneurs to consider.
1. Create a Record of Invention
When brilliance strikes and you come up with a great product idea, create a record of invention before taking further steps. This will help document your invention and prove that you were the first to come up with the idea.
Make a tangible record of the invention that includes the following:
- A clear description of the idea
- The date
- Your signature
- Signatures of two people you trust who have "witnessed and understood" your invention and the dates they signed
2. Build a Prototype
Build a prototype as soon as possible to transform the idea into a physical object.
3. Keep It Quiet
Be discreet. Do not discuss your invention with people not bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
4. Record Everything
Make sure your business model has you keeping good, complete, and accurate written records of product development, including:
A written lab book or log, kept up to date as you work on your invention
Documentation of each day you did something and a description of your efforts in taking your invention from idea to reality (including test results, experiments, and changes to the product design). Note: Have two witnesses sign and date your record book stating that they have "witnessed and understood" the work you have done to build and test your invention
Copies of all correspondence (including e-mails!) and receipts relating to your invention
5. Conduct Thorough Market Research
Don't do too much work on your invention until you get a good idea of whether it will sell well. Analyze your customer base and figure out your target market.
A suggested rule of thumb to determine if your invention will sell well is that the total sales will be at least twenty times the cost of inventing and patenting it.
Include in your cost calculation the cost of filing fees, and hiring a lawyer to help with your patent filing as well as the person who prepares the drawings of your creation.
6. Determine Patent Eligibility
Assess whether you will be able to get patent protection for your invention. Answer the following questions:
- Is your invention a new product?
- What is the prior art?
- If you are improving on something that already has a patent, is your invention a new physical feature, a combination of prior separate features, or a new use of a previous feature?
- If you are improving something already patented, is your invention not obvious?
- Does your invention produce a new and unexpected result?
- Does your invention fall into one of the five classes of items that may be patentable? Is it a process, machine, an "article of manufacture," "compositions of matter," or a new use of any of those items?
- Do you need a utility patent, design patent, or plant patent?
7. Conduct a Patent Search
Do a patent search with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO provides a step-by-step patent process of how to complete a patent search. The USPTO provides information on what type of patent application you will need, either a provisional patent application or a non-provisional application.
8. Stay Organized
Keep a file for your invention that contains items and information you and your lawyer will need while you prepare your patent application.
9. Create a Business Plan
Start exploring and thinking about how you will market your invention to make money. Include social media when creating your business plan.
10. Talk to an Attorney
Work with an experienced patent attorney licensed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Get Legal Advice From an Experienced Professional
As a first-time inventor, you would likely rather spend time perfecting your new invention idea. Leave the legal hassles to a skilled business and commercial law attorney specializing in patent law. A patent attorney in your area can help ensure you file the correct forms and work with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on your behalf.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified business attorney to help you identify how to best protect your business' intellectual property.