Some inventors come to me and say, “I have this idea. It’s the only one of its kind. It’s brand new. No one has ever thought of it! In fact, everyone wants it!” And I ask, “Well, what other products are there like it?” When they respond, “No, really! There aren’t any other products like it!” I have to stop and tell them: There might be a reason for this.
Maybe the reason that there isn’t anything like it is that there isn’t a need for it.
Beyond the initial question about the practicality of your product, there are two more key questions you must answer before moving ahead with a great idea. You’re excited because you’ve conceived a product that is new and fresh. But originality and “new-ness” aren’t synonymous with necessity, and don’t always equal success. Some products simply don’t exist for a reason.
Avoid these idea-bursting issues right from the get-go to insure that you aren’t disappointed later, having invested physical and mental time and energy into a product that was doomed from the beginning.
There are two questions that companies will always ask you. And these two questions are critical. The first one is, “How do we do it?” And the second is, “How much is it going to cost?” Your answers will make or break the future of your product.
I have seen many patents that don’t have a method of manufacturing. They are simply ideas, concepts.
Bringing your product to market is reduced to the production of your idea — how it’s going to be done and what it’s going to cost. It is so important to understand that.
How can you determine, early on, if companies possess the ability to produce your idea? Studying the marketplace is a good place to start. If other products with similar technology exist, it’s an initial reassurance to keep moving forward.
Sometimes, though, it’s not that simple. I like to call companies if I’m not sure how something is manufactured. “Hi,” I introduce myself, “My name is Stephen Key. I have a technical question about one of your products. Do you have someone in your company that can help me?” They will usually direct you to someone in manufacturing, like an engineer. I love to talk to these guys, because they love to talk about their products. Don’t say, “Hey! I’m an inventor and I want to understand your manufacturing because I have my own product.” Use broad terms and generalities so they don’t feel threatened, as if you’re going to steal their trade secrets. You just want some help understanding how the product was made!
This information will allow you to design your idea around production technology that already exists — a company’s own production technology. In trying to figure out the manufacturing ahead of time, you will save yourself so much time and heartache. Some inventors wait far too long to discover that their product cannot be mass-produced.
You may have a great idea. But if no one can make it, it’s useless.