Got an idea for a new invention? What are you waiting for? Act quickly to vet your idea, protect your intellectual property, and promote it. You could be the next inventor to turn a million-dollar idea into, well, millions of dollars.
But how do you turn your invention into a full-fledged, money-generating product? Follow these tips to make your idea a reality.
It all starts with the idea
Most successful inventors have designed hundreds of inventions in their minds over the years. While coming up with an idea is great, the first step you need to take is to detail your thoughts and assess their viability. Determining whether your idea is good or not can be difficult, but you can start by answering a few basic questions.
Does your idea solve a problem?
Most great products stem from great problems. As the internet became increasingly popular in the ’90s, for example, there also grew a glaring issue with how users found, accessed and consumed information.
Google’s founders understood that as it became easier for people to exchange information, it also became more difficult to organize it in a meaningful manner. They made it their mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
If your idea solves a problem, it’s worth pursuing.
Is there a viable market?
Even if your idea solves a legitimate problem, there might not be a viable market to support your product. Conducting targeted research into your product’s market viability is incredibly important. In fact, a recent study of 101 failed startups from CB Insights found that 42 percent didn’t make it because they lacked a market fit.
When researching market viability, find out:
- Whether there are enough people who want your product
- If the market’s price point matches your profit margin goals
- Whether you can easily deliver your product to your market
- If the market is diluted with competitors and substitutes
What’s unique about your idea?
As you analyze the merit of a new invention, it’s important to evaluate its defining characteristics. Thinking about what separates your idea from other products on the market isn’t just a way to validate its quality; it’s also a way for you to build your unique selling proposition for marketing your product.
You might also want to search resources like Google Patents and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If you find similar products, it could mean that someone has already created your idea. However, if the results are peripheral products to your idea, it could reveal the defining elements of your product versus others in your space. Whatever the case, a patent search is an excellent technique to test the uniqueness of your idea.
Protect your idea
After you’ve researched and validated your idea, the next step is to start the protection process through patents. While you cannot patent an idea, you can and should take the necessary steps to move your idea into a position where you can start applying for patents. By obtaining a patent on your invention, you’ll be given time to build and iterate your idea without fear of another inventor beating you to market.
What is a patent?
A patent is a set of intellectual property rights issued by the government to an inventor for the exclusive authority to make, use and sell an invention. The owner of a patent can license those rights to third-parties or seek legal recourse if those rights are infringed upon.
Utility patents and design patents are the two most common types of patents for inventors. As defined by the USPTO, a utility patent is “granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” A design patent is “granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.”
What can’t be patented?
Even if you conduct your research and find there are no current patents for your invention, your patent application could still be denied if your new invention isn’t deemed patentable.
Conducting extensive research into active and previous patents is one of the best ways to assess uniqueness. Additionally, for inventions to receive a patent, they must be unobvious. When measuring how obvious an invention is, the USPTO assesses how easily an average person within the industry would understand the invention and whether that person could have easily arrived at the invention.
Also, because roughly 90 percent of patents are utility patents, an invention might not receive a utility patent if it isn’t deemed useful. Usefulness is measured by the practicality and ultimate function of the invention. If the invention doesn’t provide an apparent value or use, it isn’t patentable.
How do you file a patent application?
The patent application process is extensive. To increase the likelihood that your application will be accepted, follow these steps.
- Document and record everything. During the patent application process, you’ll be asked to provide proof and documentation outlining your idea and the process by which you arrived at the final product. Keep a journal with notes, sketches and details about iterations of your concept for your patent application.
- Use nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect your idea. While you can’t patent an idea, you can use legal documents like NDAs to protect others from discussing or stealing your idea. These agreements prevent employees, partners, contractors and others from disclosing or using any intellectual property they might have gained access to before you obtained a patent.
- Conduct patent research. Before you actually start a patent application, you need to research whether your invention is actually patentable. You should also look into past and current patents to learn exactly what your patent should look like. This will help you avoid errors or omissions in your application.
- Complete your patent application. There are a lot of considerations when filing a patent. Most patent applications are for utility patents, which means you also need to decide whether you’re filing for a provisional or nonprovisional utility patent. Most inventors file a provisional patent application first. This gives them patent pending status and provides protection while they complete a nonprovisional patent application. You also have to decide whether you want to hire a registered attorney or an agent to complete your application for you, or if you’d prefer to file the application yourself.
Do you need a prototype?
A prototype is a physical model of an idea. It’s meant to provide a rough sample of what one could expect from the final iteration of a new invention. One common misconception is that you need a prototype before you can apply for a patent.
Prototyping won’t only improve your chances of receiving a patent but will also help validate and test your invention.
Patent applications require drawings and descriptions of your invention, as well as detailed explanations of how it’s made, how it works and how it’s useful. In order to receive a patent, your idea must be clearly described and understood, and nothing describes a new invention better than a prototype.
Promote a new invention
After you’ve made it through all the paperwork and cleared all the production hurdles, it’s time for the real fun — promoting your product. But this can also be an incredibly difficult step. As MLS star Jeff Attinella wisely put it, “When you create something that doesn’t exist, people don’t know it exists.”
This is where marketing comes in.
Clearly define your brand identity
Your brand is more than just your company name, logo or slogan. These are important components, but ultimately, they are just part of the larger brand machine. Your brand is an identity — it should call to mind a specific feeling and product for your audience.
It takes a variety of marketing initiatives and techniques to turn a logo into a feeling, but that is precisely the end goal of your marketing efforts. In order to reach that goal, you first need to define your brand identity.
For instance, if your new product is in the wellness field, your brand identity might evoke a feeling of peace and tranquility. If you created a new invention in the technology space, your brand identity might be edgy or ultramodern.
Editor’s note: Your domain name is your brand’s address on the web. Be sure to secure your perfect domain name early in the process of planning the launch of your new invention. You can then set up a custom email address with your domain, and attach your website to your domain for a memorable, representative online address.
Create a website
If you want to build a presence for your new product, you need to create a website. Afterall, customers expect every business to have one. GoDaddy’s GoCentral Website Builder provides a fast and affordable website builder so you can launch a website with minimal effort.
As you build your website, remember that it’s a tool to help you communicate your brand message, convert leads into clients and retain customers. Use digital marketing tactics like content marketing and SEO to meet your goals and turn your website into a valuable asset.
Attend trade shows
Going to trade shows is one of the best ways to promote a new invention because it allows you to show off your product and network with potential investors, customers and business partners.
Big trade shows like SXSW are loaded with opportunity but come with a risk because they can cost several thousand dollars to attend. If you’re thinking about attending a trade show (especially one of the big ones), make sure you have a working prototype. And come prepared with additional resources and information that will keep people engaged.
Finally, increase the ROI of attending a trade show by collecting contact information from the people you meet and following up with targeted email campaigns aimed to convert them into customers.
Launching a new invention can be overwhelming — especially if you’re releasing a product in an oversaturated industry. Customers are bombarded by an increasing amount of marketing messages while their attention spans continue to decrease.
You could give your invention away to influencers in exchange for promotion on their social channels. Create a giveaway that drives users to an optimized landing page on your website. Or launch a guerrilla marketing campaign in an area densely-populated by your target audience.
There’s no time like the present
Whether you’re a compulsive inventor with dozens of ideas sketched in your notepad or a novice who has an idea for a product that would make your life easier, the path from conception to invention is the same. And every day you wait to start is another day someone else could beat you to it.
To successfully launch a new invention, remember to refine your ideas, protect your intellectual property, and promote your new invention. Well, what are you waiting for?