5 Steps to Evaluating a Patent Idea
There’s nothing like the enthusiasm one feels during a proverbial “I’ve got it!” moment. However, it helps to have basic criteria for defining whether your idea is truly worth patenting or even patentable. Here are five steps you should follow in coming up with patent ideas.
Determine how well it will work.
How well will your idea work in practice? Will it work well enough to replace what people in this field already use? One easy way to determine this is to actively work in the field you envision your product being used for. This will give you a first hand glimpse into the current reality of what’s out there and let you tangibly see how your creation would improve it. If that’s not possible, find someone you trust in that field and bounce your idea off of them for feedback.
Who wants it?
There’s nothing worse than wasting weeks, months, or even years theorizing about a creation that’s “gonna be soooo great!” only to discover that no specific segment of customers truly wants it. To avoid this nightmare scenario, tell others about your idea. Ask them if and in what way it would truly improve their lives. The trick here is asking people who don’t know you very well. They are more likely to be honest instead of preoccupied with not hurting your feelings.
How can it be made?
Another common pitfall is glossing over the messy particulars of how something will be made. In the euphoria of brainstorming, your mind is naturally drawn to the sexy aspects of invention, such as the huge market waiting to be capitalized or your pitch to investors. Instead, force yourself to focus on exactly what it will take to bring your patent idea to life. How can it be made? What materials are needed? What types of skills are necessary to put it all together? Having firm answers to these questions turns you from dreamer into doer.
How much will it cost?
If technical particulars are easy to glaze over, forecasts about costs are downright ignored until it is unavoidable. This is a mistake. Crunching the numbers of how much it will cost to create your patent idea is not only necessary for investors to take it seriously; it will also make the idea real in your mind. Once you know what it will take to make your idea, do some basic research. Where can the materials be purchased cheaply? Do you know anyone with the necessary skills who will work for a stake in the profits instead of up-front cash payments? An entrepreneur who can answer these questions will be taken seriously by everyone involved in the patenting process, from attorneys to the professionals in the industry you are trying to enter.
How are products like this usually sold?
Finally, you need to know how your product will reach paying customers. If your idea is for a new, thinner and more puncture resistant bicycle tire, for example, you need a list of the top bicycle manufacturers in the country. These are the people who could potentially license your patent and put your patent idea into practice. A possible next step would be gathering the names of the top bicycle retailers. These are the stores who would be selling the bicycles. This type of analysis forces you to trace the chain of people you’ll need to work with in order to succeed.
In short, these five steps will firm up your patent in your own mind and in the eyes of those who will be evaluating it. As the Patent and Trademark Office gets more stringent about which types of inventions are patent-worthy, the importance of pleasing them cannot be stressed enough. More important than that, however, is that you be able to convince investors and manufacturers that you have a worthwhile and profitable idea. This, ultimately, is what is going to determine your success or failure. Many inventors lose sight of these concerns in the creative rush they feel. While this is seductive, it will not aid in your goals of acquiring and marketing a patent.
Fortunately, this does not have to be your story. By following the simple steps in this article and the advice on this website, you can be confident that your patent idea stands a chance of succeeding in the marketplace.