The process of bringing a product to market is fraught with obstacles. Inventors must overcome uncertainty, anxiety, and misinformation, to name a few, to realize their dreams. I’ve identified the five most common roadblocks and bumps for people with ideas. In the next week and a half, I’ll teach you how to get over (or around) each. Have you stopped trying to bring your idea to life? Are you confused about what to do next? Convinced that you don’t have enough capital? If progress on bringing your product to the market has ground to a halt, use these blogs to figure out which roadblock is plaguing you, and get moving again.
There are a number of erroneous beliefs inventors subscribe to; few, however, are as harmful as the perceived necessity of patents. When I began inventing, I felt that I always needed protection (in the form of an issued patent). It didn’t matter what the idea was or who I was working with. Over the course of my career though, I’ve discovered that the companies I want to license my ideas to have different priorities. The success of a product is tied to when it hits the market, not how well protected it is. Companies want their product to be the first of its kind on store shelves. Do companies like to work with products that are patented? Sure. Is it a requirement? No, not necessarily. For most companies, it’s not of utmost importance, but for most inventors, having an issued patent is. It doesn’t make sense.
Don’t wait to begin calling companies until you have an issued patent. That’s ludicrous. Why? Because most patents are issued four or five years after an inventor has applied for one! That’s simply too long to remain idle. Potential licensees don’t need you to have a patent to begin working with them; they want to be the first company to produce and sell that product. One of my students applied for a patent but continued to talk to companies about licensing her idea; when her patent was finally issued, the company licensing her product didn’t care! They paid her for her idea in royalties before they even knew she was going to receive one.
I recommend filing a Provisional Patent Application after you’ve come up with what you think is a great idea. The application is inexpensive (a little over $100) and protects your idea for a year. Spend the year discovering if there is indeed legitimate interest in the manufacture of your idea. Some inventors hire an attorney, spend thousands and thousands of dollars in legal fees, and wait several years for their patent to be issued, only to discover no one wants to buy their product! Don’t be that inventor. Wait to file a patent, if you choose to, until you’re very confident it’s ‘worth it’ – because truly, you can’t ever be 100% sure it’s going to pay off.
Furthermore, patents aren’t the only form of intellectual protection. Investigate other options that save you time and money, like trademarks and copyrights. And finally, please don’t be fearful of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO is not trying to prevent you from receiving a patent. They’re there to help!