I Have an Idea . . . Now What?baystatenew
All of a sudden, one day you are sitting at work or at home and something pops into your head, you believe you have an idea that if marketed properly would be valuable and desired by the public. On average, individual inventors usually develop ideas as a result of an everyday problem they have to deal with and yet the solutions available to them are not optimal, and thus feel that they can create a new product that fills this gap and will make everyday life a little easier.
Once you have come up with your brilliant idea, what should you do? Initially you should determine how much you have developed this idea and whether it is simply a concept at this point or if you know how you would want your new invention to work. If your idea is still in the concept stage, then you should begin to develop the idea in more detail; if your device is mechanical, electrical or software based, depending on your technical background and ability to design the invention, you may need to employ the services of an engineer or programmer to provide you with any technical expertise required. At a minimum, it is a worthwhile endeavor to undertake some research to become familiar with the field of your invention and at least conduct a cursory search online for any similar products that may exist that would either be competitors to your product or are very similar in design and function to your proposed product.
If you have developed your invention to a point that it is no longer a concept and it is more concrete, then it is time to begin to fully document your invention. Documenting your invention not only helps you put your invention down on paper, but it most likely will help you refine your invention and include information that you did not previously think about as you work through the process of describing your invention, in particular the make-up and function of your invention. As mentioned above, it is a good habit to know the current field of technology of your invention, and who your competitors are in order to make sure your product is unique and offers an improvement over what currently exists.
Now that you have documented your invention, you have several options on moving forward. The first option would be to create a prototype of your invention in order to make it easier to explain to others and assist in marketing your invention down the line. Again, depending on your technical background and the complexity of the invention, it may be possible to create a prototype on your own or you may need to employ the skills of a professional. If you need to hire an engineer or programmer to create a prototype, then it is imperative to have them sign a non-disclosure agreement and work-for-hire agreement to ensure you retain all ownership of the invention and it is kept confidential. It is important to note, that should you choose to attempt to protect your invention through a United States Patent Application, you are not required to create a prototype prior to filing as long as you are able to fully describe how to make and use your invention. Another option would be to conduct a patentability search to determine whether your invention has either been patented or attempted to be patented previously; some inventors prefer to conduct an initial patent search on their own, and then depending on what they find, hire a professional to conduct a formal patentability search and provide their opinion.
Finally, at this stage, once the invention has been carefully developed and documented, and if a patentability search reveals no direct conflicts, then it is up to the inventor to determine whether they should seek patent protection or simply try to market and sell the product.