While there is no set formula on how a would-be inventor can take their great idea from mind to manufacturing, there are some things they must be aware of and some steps they simply must take as they move forward. If you think you have one of those great ideas, set aside all celebrations for the time being and start taking real action toward making the idea a productive and profitable reality. Be warned, though: this isn't going to be easy.
1. Ask Yourself Some Serious Questions
It's very important to keep your feet on the ground, even if you feel you've reinvented the wheel in spectacular fashion. An idea itself is worthless until proven in many ways, but that can be difficult for the idea holder to see sometimes. Before getting too excited or quitting your job because you're sure this idea is going to rake in millions, ask yourself a few questions:
- How do you make this idea work in the real world?
- What complications does the invention itself face in real-world testing?
- Who is going to buy this?
- Who will pay for it to be prototyped and tested, and how much will that cost?
- Is this idea original?
- Who are your potential partners, and what competition do you face?
There are countless questions you need answers for, but you have to ask them, first. Above and beyond the excitement of creating something new and potentially worth a lot of money, there are many challenging steps you have to take to get your idea to market. It's important to note than many inventors get lost or discouraged at this crucial point.
2. Get A Second Opinion, But Keep Yourself Protected
No matter who you discuss your idea with, including relatives and close friends you're certain you can trust, have them sign a legally binding non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This document means they can't talk to any other party about your invention, or they'll face legal consequences. Armed with an NDA, you can bounce your idea off a potential consumer, who can then offer you very useful information on how they view the product, what they'd spend for it, how often they might use it, etc. When talking to potential partners, you're likely to get more valuable feedback on setting up a company, manufacturing, distribution, and other important elements of a startup.
A second (third, fourth, and beyond) opinion should provide you with affirmation that your idea has value, beyond what you've imagined thus far. These outside opinions help you to chisel your idea into something with real-world applicability. Also, be prepared for the naysayers, who, although discouraging at first, can also give you useful information.
3. Analyze Development And Production Costs
It's one thing to create a homemade prototype and quite another to put it into real production. How much is it going to cost to perfect your prototype enough to actually manufacture it? How much will it cost to produce each unit, and who can handle that for you? Ideas are typically modified in the development stage, meaning your original idea may evolve into something different or even spawn two or more spinoff ideas that are equally valuable and worth pursuing.
Although the technical aspects of bringing an invention to the production stage are tedious and challenging, this is a crucial stage for you and will determine the economic feasibility of moving forward. You need to figure out who you can trust, where your startup capital is going to come from, and whether or not you should form some type of company now. Depending on your educational level and experience, this could be a whole new ballgame for you—one which you may not be qualified to handle on your own. It's time to determine the realistic future of your invention and who can help you turn the dream into reality.
4. Take Your Idea To A Patent Attorney
When you're certain you want to move forward with your idea or invention, the thought of going to a patent attorney will be a most welcomed one. There, you will have answers to the many questions swirling in your mind, as well as finding the security that comes with legally protecting both your idea and yourself. A patent attorney at a law firm like the Lingbeck Law Office can guide you in the direction you need to go, but most importantly, they will initiate the patent process that officially claims your idea, breathing new life and energy into your ambitions. Be prepared with admissible blueprints and the data that proves your invention viable, and if your prototype is portable, haul it right into the office with you.
There are many other considerations for you and your attorney, such as if and how you'll be incorporated, who will be involved and what their responsibilities will be, or whether or not you'd choose to simply sell or lease your patent once it gets the official stamp of approval from the main office in Washington, D.C. Your patent lawyer could help you figure this all out after you're granted a patent, or these could be things you decide on your own prior to consulting with them.
You're also going to need to trademark the name of the invention, as well as the company you're forming around it. Make certain the lawyer you hire is someone you enjoy working with, because this should be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship, not just a simple "sign on the dotted line and you're done" visit.
As difficult and frustrating as it may be to get from the stage of having a great idea to making it a reality, if you do it right and partner with the right people, including a good patent attorney, your dreams should eventually become a reality. Keep yourself protected along the way, and if you're certain the idea is viable, let nothing discourage you.