Help for First Time Inventors: Everything You Need to Know
People who are seeking help for first-time inventors first need to figure out if their idea could be monetized and if they require patents.3 min read
People who are seeking help for first-time inventors first need to figure out if their idea could be monetized and if they require patents. From there, inventors can follow a clear course of action in order to successfully develop their ideas.
Two Questions First-Time Inventors Should Ask Themselves
If you are a first-time inventor, you must ask yourself two basic questions before getting started.
First, you should first ask yourself, “Is there a market for my invention?” While you figure that out, these are the groups of people you should talk to:
- Friends and family
- Institutions, like colleges and universities, that are armed with expert knowledge
- Independent marketing experts
- Potential customers
- Buyers from local and chain stores
Next, you should ask yourself, “Do I need a patent?” If the answer is also yes, you will need to start the process of obtaining a patent.
What First-Time Inventors Need to Do to Develop Their Ideas
After determining the viability of your idea and whether or not you need a patent, you must understand the process of turning your idea into an actual product.
- Do some basic research.
- See if your idea already has a patent. You can do some research yourself, but you also should get professionals to help you. Do not go any further if a patent already exists.
- Understand the market for your invention and the industry in which it will fit. This includes doing research to understand pricing and shipping costs.
- Talk to the people who would fit in your intended market.
- Record your progress.
- Keep a journal to document everything about your invention and the progress you make.
- Keep your thoughts organized. Make sure you put dates next to each journal entry and that each entry is legible.
- Update your journal regularly.
- Share your findings with people who might be included in the process (like manufacturers), but get those individuals to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Make a prototype for your invention.
- This should be done before filing for a patent because you will need to make improvements along the way.
- You might also realize that other aspects of your invention need separate patents.
- You will need a prototype if you ultimately decide to license your patent.
- Get practical help from experts.
- Experts are better equipped to find out if your idea has already been patented.
- They will give you constructive criticism.
- They can also give you tips on cutting costs and help you prepare your product for marketing.
- Apply for a patent. Just remember that in the United States, patent holders have a 12-month grace period after registering their inventions.
- Market your invention, which can mean advertising your product or licensing it.
Mistakes First-Time Inventors Should Avoid
If you are pursuing that patent, avoid making critical mistakes that will preclude you from obtaining one.
- Never get a patent before you develop your idea. Patents are expensive and only two to three percent of patented ideas are ever realized.
- Never abuse the grace period. Before, inventors could do certain things, like selling their inventions, before obtaining patents. On March 16, 2013, The America Invents Act went into effect and it changed the conditions for obtaining a patent and protecting it. Now, the first person to file a patent in the U.S. is recognized as the rightful patent holder.
- Never sell your invention before obtaining a patent. Obtain a provisional or nonprovisional patent during your grace period, lest you lose any rights you have to a patent.
- Don't publicly reveal your invention without a patent, either. Don't just tell anyone about your idea because it could be stolen by dishonest people.
- Never file a patent application that does not clearly describe your invention. If you file an incomplete application, you may lose “first to file” priority or you will have to do the filing process all over again.
- Avoid filing a poorly crafted provisional patent application. Even though it's relatively easy to file a provisional patent application, you will need to describe your invention with enough detail to justify the patent like you would with a normal application. You should also avoid questionable services that offer to make provisional applications for you. Unless it's done right, your application will not be worth the time and money spent.
If you need help as a first-time inventor, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.