So, You Want to Invent?

by on 04/08/09 at 2:18 pm

So, You Want to Invent?

Lesson 1: To Begin

As you are watching TV you see something that interests you and you come up with an idea of how it would be easier. BOOM! You have an idea for an invention. You are become very excited and then you have doubts… what do I do now? Who should I tell? What steps should I take? Who do I call?

This happens nearly every time people come up with a good idea and it is the doubts that hold us back. Usually, people stop their efforts in exploring options just by doubting their invention.  Knowledge is power.  So, first and foremost get a notebook or make a folder on you computer that is dedicated primarily to your invention.

The Notebook:

This notebook should contain the basics to you ideas and lists of names and companies that you have talked to about your idea. Do not disclose your idea to anyone without first having both parties sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).  The first entry that you make should set guidelines for your project. Write your beginning and end goal. Here is an example:

  1. Make my idea a reality
  2. Conduct a patent search
  3. Build a prototype
  4. Research the market
  5. File a provisional patent application
  6. Form a company
  7. Meet with a potential licensee
  8. Write a business plan.

This are a few steps that you can take  to start your project. First and foremost you have to protect your idea.


Your idea is unique to you and can be taken away from you in seconds. Just by telling your mom, friend, and spouse can be costly because they might tell someone your idea as well. With a new invention it is key to pursue some legal intellectual property (i.e. patent).  Also, make sure you have an NDA handy whenever you talk to third parties. If you plan to pay to have you project prototyped ask that company to sign it. You can make one yourself. Search for sample NDA forms online or go to the library and view sample NDA from printed literature.

The United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) offers the Disclosure Document Program. For a small fee ($10±) you can forward a paper called a Disclosure Document to the USPTO as evidence of the date of conception for you invention. This document is in effect for 2 years, after which time the papers are destroyed unless you refer to it in your patent application.

Product Life Cycle:

The product life cycle applies to all products and varies in time spans. The variation depends on how long it takes you to create the correct prototype or the amount of time your product is on the market. Here is a sample PLC chart.

Development: Right not you are in the development stage.  The development stage is the hardest because you are not selling hence, you are receiving nothing on your investment. This is where you are responsible for forking out a lot of money. Don’t fret though, there are investors that help with this (read Raise the Dough). The key in this stage is to pick a good company and stick with them.

Introduction:  This stage is very much like your first day at school or your first day at work. It is stressful and you will get a lot of closed doors. Your job is to tell people how much they need your product and why it is great. Remember that you have to believe in it. 

Growth: This stage is when you have to manage your project and watch it sour. Make smart decisions and don’t stray from your main objective.

Maturity: Your time and money has paid off. You have to remind people that your product is great and build on customer loyalty. Some products stay at this stage for a long time. Some companies recreate the product just a little (i.e. Kleenex and Kleenex Lotion Tissue).

Decline: You are being pushed out by competition. This is natural. Don’t worry. Your product will still sell but, in lesser quantities. In this stage you have to make sure you still have your customer’s loyalty and that you are there for them. With this you can put your next product on the line and continue your success.


Stay tuned:  Next is a lesson in patent basics.

Bird, Pamela Riddle. Inventing for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2004. Chapter 1.

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