You might have a brilliant idea for a new invention that you think a lot of people would be willing to buy. But without a credible plan to turn your invention ideas into marketable products, you will never make money off of them. Thus, we’ve outlined a step-by-step guide to help make your idea a reality.
Step 1: Document and Record Your Invention Ideas
When it comes to capitalizing on your invention ideas, the first step is establishing ownership rights. You won’t profit from your invention simply by envisioning it, you must have the documentation that demonstrates that you were the first to conceive of your potential product.
Thus, make sure you write down everything you can in an inventor’s journal about the concept, design and marketability of your invention. An inventor’s journal that will hold up in court can be any bound notebook with consecutively numbered pages that cannot be removed or reinserted, says Andy Gibbs, founder of Patent Cafe. Don’t forget to have a witness sign and date the ideas in your journal.
Step 2: Make Sure Your Invention is Not Already Patented
Just because you’ve never heard of your invention ideas before, doesn’t mean you’re the first person to come up with them. Thus, you should first conduct a patent search. If someone else can lay claim to coming up with your idea before you, they will also lay claim to all the money from any sales.
- Carry out preliminary patent search. Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to search if anyone else has already patented your idea. You should be able to do this without a lawyer.
- Search for prior art. Even if no patent has been filed, if any artwork or design illustrations related to your invention exists, you will most likely not be able to patent it.
Step 3: Do Some Research to Make Sure Your Idea Has a Market
It’s easy to fall in love with your invention ideas and simply assume other people are going to fall in love with them too. However, the only way you’ll know this to be true is to do thorough market research.
ASK what your potential customers want and then LISTEN. Knowing exactly what people will be willing to spend money on will give you the confidence to move forward with your idea. Mom Invented founder and CEO Tamara Monosoff recommends conducting informal focus groups and online surveys (e.g., SurveyMonkey.com) to gather this feedback and incorporate it into your invention.
Step 4: Make a Prototype (i.e., prove your idea can work in real life)
The next step is to complete a working model of your product. This process is necessary to work out any flaws and come up with any new features. Never file a patent until you have completed a prototype, says Gibbs. You won’t own the rights to any changes you make to your invention after filing a patent, so it’s important to make sure you’ve got a product you’re happy with first.
- Sketch. To start the prototyping phase, first illustrate your invention ideas in your inventor’s journal.
- Mockup. Build a 3-D model of your design using any materials.
- Model. Create a full-working model of your product.
Step 5: File a Patent
There are two main types of patents: a utility patent (for new processes or machines) or a design patent (for manufacturing new, non-obvious ornamental designs). While you can start the patent application yourself, do not file it without the help of a patent lawyer with the proper technical expertise, says Gibbs.
If your invention is truly worth money, others will eventually infringe upon your patent. Hiring the proper patent attorney helps ensure your patent is fully protected and you avoid any costly legal battles.
Step 6: Create a Business Plan to Market Your Invention
“More than 95 percent of all patents never make money for the inventor,” says Gibbs. Thus, once you’re sure there’s a market, you’ve built a prototype and filed a patent, the next step is to flesh out a business plan. A good business plan helps you identify the quickest and clearest path to making money off of your product.
Think through these questions, says Monosoff, especially when it comes to how you will manufacture and distribute your invention ideas so you can turn a profit:
- What am I building?
- Who is my customer?
- What is my promise to customers?
- What are my strategies and action items to achieve my objective?
Check out our blog on writing business plans for more tips on how to think through product marketing.
It can take a lot of time and hard work to turn your invention idea into a profitable product. But by adhering to these steps, you’ll have a better chance of prospering off of your innovations.